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Designing Effective Knowledge Networks

In today's interconnected world, networks for sharing knowledge are important. Authors Katrina Pugh of Columbia University, and Laurence Prusak, coauthor of the book Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, write that by paying careful attention to eight dimensions of network design, leaders of knowledge networks can facilitate desired behaviors and outcomes.

"Knowledge networks" are "collections of individuals and teams who come together across organizational, spatial and disciplinary boundaries to invent and share a body of knowledge," the authors write. "The focus of such networks is usually on developing, distributing and applying knowledge. For-profit and nonprofit organizations of all sizes are seizing on this model to learn more quickly and collaborate productively. However, for every successful network, others have lost steam due to poor participation, goal ambiguity, mixed allegiances or technology mismatches."

Through examples and the voices of people who have developed knowledge networks, the authors detail the four knowledge network goals every organization undertaking such a project should articulate, a framework for knowledge network effectiveness, the eight design dimensions of knowledge networks and specific questions to be answered by knowledge network leaders. They provide case studies of knowledge networks set up by ConocoPhillips, the world's largest independent exploration and production oil company, and Women's World Banking, a global nonprofit operating in 28 countries.

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