Let's Get Intentional: Four Disciplines for Online Discussions

Blog Topic: 
Knowledge Jam

Can we do anything to make online discussions more productive? In general, discussions are for interacting on problems or events (sense-making), responding to questions, and connecting to others (social capital building). Recently Dan Ranta (ConocoPhillips Chielf Knowledge Officer) posted a question on the SIKM Leaders board about combining newer social discussions with the notion of "publishing" gems. Matt Moore (Innotecture) suggested that two systems could exist in parallel, but that piloting the cross-over would make sense.  I wrote this post to Dan, Matt, and the SIKM Community. 


May 12, 2013 to SIKM Leaders: I really agree with Matt about the challenges, and I am also a fan of both Sharepoint and Yammer and a number of other social tools. At Columbia's Information and Knowledge Strategy master's program we are teaching the students to use four disciplines as they post -- as if it were a team sport, where the goal is collective insight.  (Sometimes that needs to be sleuthed out of  a long meandering discussion. 


I've shared the four discussion disciplines here last year, but I can tell you more confidently that they are having an impact on discussion quality and outcomes, and they may help us all to bridge between our "documenty" and "yammery" worlds. The four discussion disciplines are:


1. Integrity (using your true voice and asking questions that are crisp and engaging) 

2. Courtesy (being respectful of differences in understanding and even language)

3. Inclusion (being intentional about bringing in other voices, e.g., by calling in [e.g., using the @twitterhandle] to get them to help or to benefit)

4. Translation (creating a decisive view of the series of posts. Summarize "where have we been, and what does it amount to?" I can't overstate the importance of this. We all hate joining discussions where there are no "mile markers" and we feel like outsiders. 


When I assign discussions I have one student take on the role of "lead" (that might be the person trying to solve a problem) and then I have a few others responsible for monitoring the four disciplines.  (I call them "social reporters," but I've learned from Beverly Trayner I should call these "community keepers.") The skill of translation or integration is critical, and many of us don't see it as our responsibility when we engage others in social. 


The students have become pretty adept at being both in the discussion and observing its patterns. I was gratified to see that several of them have been using these disciplines in their business meetings as well!


Kate Pugh is Academic Director of Columbia's Columbia Information and Knowledge Strategy Master's Program, and President of AlignConsulting. She tweets at @katrinapugh.




Discussion Forum Disciplines 130513.pdf318.09 KB

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