KM experts dispute age gap

Does a generation gap affect federal employees’ adoption of knowledge management and Web 2.0?  
The answer may be counterintuitive, according to Chris Rasmussen, social software knowledge manager at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He’s also a top contributor to Intellipedia, the online wiki for federal intelligence information sharing.

Intellipedia is a freewheeling format that produces often unexpected flows of information, Rasmussen said last week at a conference. The patterns do not always fit standard expectations.

For example, people assume Intellipedia users in their 20s would be the most prolific, but that is not necessarily the case, he said. One of the most active editors is in his 60s. Of the two-dozen most active editors, most are in their 30s and 40s, he said.

“It is not an age, it is a mind-set,” said Rasmussen, who is 33.

Robert Neilson, knowledge management adviser to the Army’s chief information officer, pointed to his own graying tresses in disputing the notion of an age gap.

All managers, regardless of age, should be open-minded about innovation, Neilson said.  “Knowledge management and Web 2.0 are complementary, not competitive,” Neilson said. “You either get on board, or you get left behind.”

The notion of a generation gap in computer skills continues to be discussed, said Neil Olonoff, knowledge management team leader under contract with the Army.

“People say that the younger people come in with the skills. That may be true, but younger people don’t always have an inclination,” Olonoff said. “I’m 58, and I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, but many other [younger] people cannot be bothered.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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