Simon Terry

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A Public Source of Error

Conversations correcting errors are an important part of any enterprise social network. Learning begins in these discussions and that learning is widely shared.

Many organisations are concerned to have a ‘single source of truth’. Often the discussion of an enterprise social network will be seen as offering a conflict with an enterprise single source of truth. If anyone can answer a question in the network, how do we know their answer is right?

The answer is because it will be public.  A public source of error is one that can be identified and corrected by others with better access to the source of truth or better ability to answer the question.

Most organisations are filled with small private errors that circulate widely. We learn from gossip. We are taught our jobs by our colleagues. We help others to understand. We make our own meaning as we translate the top-down one-way communications in the organisation into something relevant to our roles.

Myths and errors accumulate and circulate easily in the private social interactions in an organisation. Because there is little conflict in a group who all share an error, there may never be a call to check the information against a source of truth. This is one reason while enterprise knowledge repositories become dull and quiet places.

The minute someone shares one of these errors in an enterprise social network in answer to a question or discussion there is an opportunity for it to be corrected. Once an error is public it can be checked and a better answer shared. The experts in charge of the source of truth and anyone else with a perspective can add their own insights. The discussion alone can draw attention to areas of common misunderstanding or issues requiring further education.

A failing of many single sources of truth in organisations is that they are not updated when things change. It can be hard keeping all the truths up to date in a timely manner in times of rapid change. In this case, the single source of truth becomes the single source of error. The power of a public conversation in an enterprise social network is that these errors can be highlighted too. Even the source of truth can be corrected when it needs to be.

Transparency has a disinfectant quality in organisations. Make sure that your single source of truth is supported with a public discussion of error. Seeing errors in public is far better than them circulating in private.


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