Everyone has business or legal questions they can’t answer – even lawyers (especially lawyers). Which is why I’ve focused in part on creating a “knowledge web*,” a network not only of trusted friends and colleagues, but also people with expertise in areas of the law where I don’t practice. My knowledge web helps me, but more importantly, it helps my clients.
For example, let’s say you’ve failed to pay business taxes in the City of Philadelphia, and you come to your shop one morning to find it padlocked. If you were to call me, I would immediately give you contact information of other practitioners I know who specialize in City of Philadelphia tax matters. Given their experience in that area, they will be able to help you more efficiently.
I think analogizing collective knowledge with a web is apt. A web is a series of connections; the “knowledge web” is a form of collective intelligence formed by a series of connections between people. Nobody can know everything, but we all expect to have access to information. Accessing information on the internet, however, is less helpful (and may be less accurate) than speaking to a person who can discuss questions or collaborate on answers. The key part of a knowledge web is the willingness of each member to talk through issues, since without an exchange there is no web. There’s no room for a free rider in a knowledge web. Those who ask for information without providing any in return are soon shut out.
Creating a web takes work, but is very rewarding for me and my clients. It lets me focus my time and energy on my practice and my brand, while still helping to provide a client with a connection to legal assistance. The members of my knowledge web may gain clients. We all work together, in complementary ways, to help our businesses bloom.
* Not to be confused with the “knowledge web” of the James Burke Institute (see http://k-web.org/ (last visited Dec. 23, 2014).
For more information, see Douglas Engelbart’s website, in particular his philosophy on Network Improvement Communities, at http://www.dougengelbart.org/ (last visited Dec. 23, 2014). See also Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’s books Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2007) and Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet (2010), which address large-scale collective intelligence in the digital age.