Groupe d’études et de recherche en analyse des décisions

Knowledge Management in Virtual Communities: opportunities for Agile GDSS?

Dirk Kenis

The focus in Knowledge Management evolved from externalisation of knowledge in (digital) documents to interactive knowledge sharing between humans. In many large organisations or networks Virtual Communities recently became important environments, not only to share but also to create knowledge. Many innovative internet based communication media (wiki’s; blogs; rss-feeds; Skype (VoIP); Instant Messaging, Forums; voting; ...). have contributed to this success.

However, the opportunities for inventing rich communication media to support communities remain high. The real challenge for these large virtual meeting places is not to copy real-time and real-life communication but to provide more structure in their communication processes.

Communication by definition is a complex process. In social sciences it is common knowledge that, in real life, as groups become larger their communication process requires more structure, i.e from voting by raising hands to detailed laws regulating legal representation in a democracy...

Present internet based communication media provide little structure or group feedback. Consequently it is difficult for virtual groups to build, agree upon and share a common mental model, a common language or symbols that characterize their subculture or community.

Agile group decision support systems can enhance the quality of group communication by splitting up the communication processes in feasible tasks and providing

  • appropriate (computed) group feedback;
  • structure ingrained in decision models;
  • voting analysis tools based on operational research methodology
  • group modelling tools based on systems dynamics
  • text analysis tools based on ontology’s and finally
  • storing and retrieval capabilities for these knowledge rich communications
  • guidelines for participants based on best practices to chose the appropriate support at any time in the communication process.

It is through discussion that people learn about each others viewpoints, which is elementary in a group that calls itself a ‘community’ and that aims at creating and sharing knowledge.

*Co-authored with Tanguy Coenen