Ever needed to find an in-house expert on a topic at your company, but didn’t know where to look? That’s the subject of this article related to “information networks,” or how we find information.

The authors studied how people found experts in a large multinational consulting company, and mapped out the number of steps each attempt took. They found that three groups of people had the most difficulty finding the experts:

  1. Employees who were relatively new,
  2. Employees who resided at the periphery of the organizations social network, and
  3. Female employees.

New employees and those who are at the periphery of the social network of the company I can understand, but female employees being in there intrigues me. Is it the “boys club” nature coming through again? Or could it be some other factor?

The obvious solutions to finding an expert were mentioned in the article, “One potential solution is a mentoring program that not only pairs newcomers with veterans but also tries to match people across various social lines” (p. 9).

Another idea came to me, which also is good for building a skills matrix on employees. Companies should build an intranet where the employees are listed along with skills the company markets. Let everyone vote for who they think are the experts in the field. As the number of votes rises, the “real” experts in a particular field should rise to the top, and then the information is available for anyone to search.

— Hayashi, A. M. (2008, Spring). The World Might Be Small, but Not for Everyone. MIT Sloan Management Review. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/smr/issue/2008/spring/04/.