Role of Opinion8th February 2020
Knowledge management systems are effective when the innovations are pioneered by organizations. Apart from the innovations themselves, they have to be diffused throughout the organization to benefit the employees. the key question here is that when there are thousands of artifacts and documents as part of the knowledge base of an organization, how do rank and file employees sift through them and find out what is relevant and applicable to them as well as what is accurate and a rich source of information. In other words, employees must not waste their time looking for the best possible sources of information and artifacts in the knowledge management system and instead, must have a tool or a ranking system where they can find the most relevant and pertinent articles easily and without great difficulty. This is where the roles of the opinion leaders and the change agents are important as their certification and ranking of the articles would lend credibility and importance to the artifacts. Each organization has certain employees who are known throughout the organization as opinion leaders and change agents and hence, their recommendations carry weight and lend the much-needed respectability to innovations.
How the Opinion Leaders and Change Agents are Heard more than the Others?
The opinion leaders and change agents often help diffuse the innovations throughout the organization and beyond. These opinion leaders and change agents often have patents or other innovations that proved to be successful against their name and hence, their opinions and recommendations carry a halo that other innovators can bask in when these opinion leaders and change agents give their stamp of approval. To take an example from our everyday lives, whenever we find a celebrity endorsing a particular brand or a product, we usually give it more importance than the competitors do. Further, in the online world, the number of likes on Facebook pages, the number of Tweets that are circulated, and the number of recommendations on Amazon’s ranking of books are clear examples where the power of the opinion leaders and change agents helps the products or services gain market share and consumer following. Similarly, in organizations, if key individuals who are known for their exceptional abilities recommend certain artifacts in the knowledge management system, then the other employees follow suit and this results in the diffusion of the innovation. This is the reason why many organizations have gatekeepers for the knowledge management systems wherein some key employees are tasked with vetting and verifying the content that is submitted to the KM systems.
Rogers’ Theory of Diffusion of Innovations
The above points are based on Rogers’ theory of diffusion of innovations which is a widely respected theoretical framework used by marketers, brand consultants, innovators, and inventors when they devise strategies that diffuse their innovations. Rogers’ proposes that change agents and opinion leaders often spread the word of mouth publicity needed for innovations to diffuse and since they are respected, their opinions count and matter among the consumers. This is the reason why many TV debates often have experts on the panel so that the viewers can understand the expert viewpoint and if the expert is well known, then there is the added advantage of their opinions being circulated widely. In other words, once individuals reach a level of competence and expertise and are admired in the public arena, they are most likely to be heard more than the others are. Therefore, organizations that strive for effective KM systems must likewise take the help of organizational change agents and opinion leaders to ensure that the innovations diffuse within as well as in the external world.
Finally, this discussion does not mean that rank and file employees who are not yet recognized as opinion leaders and change agents do not stand a chance. After all, the opinion leaders and change agents were at one point, rank and file employees and individuals themselves and the reason for their success is because they innovated and took the help of other innovators to diffuse their views and opinions.