The rule is this: when I write the post, I know more about that particular topic than the average person who’s going to read it. But I don’t know more about the particular topic than some of the people reading it – so if I can get them to contribute then everyone (me and the other readers) will have benefited. (And of course if I don’t know more, or suspect I don’t know more, than the average reader, I should go away and find out some more until I do.)
Journalists are not especially different in this respect from lawyers. Sometimes we may have clients who know more about the law in question than their advisors. Only a handful of people (out of a population of thousands) get to be the undisputed experts in their fields. The rest of us have to hope that we know enough to be helpful to the client and to allow the possibility that the client might help us. Charles has a view on this too.
The trick is in writing it in a way that will get those people who do know more to contribute it. That’s tricky. Takes practise. Maybe that’s what the new journalism is about: writing in a way that raises the amount of knowledge in the average reader’s head, while encouraging the reader further up the bell curve of knowledge to pitch in too.
Those of us who are interested in opening up knowledge sharing within law fims (or anywhere, I suspect) can learn from this. The best examples of knowledge sharing arise when people who know a little feel empowered enough to communicate what they know and confident enough to accept correction or clarification from those who know — and all this can occur in an open environment so that those on the sidelines also learn. That is why carefully managed Web2.0 technologies inside the firewall can offer real KM benefits — they show how knowledge flows around the business.