All the excitement about Quora these past few days has us curious -- could Quora be a model for an effective enterprise knowledge management tool?

Make KM as Easy as Q & A

Quora, an online user-generated and edited collection of questions and their answers, is designed to accumulate knowledge through a collaborative process. It's recent popularity has resulted in thousands of new questions, answers and followers, creating opportunities for the curious and those in the know.

Although it’s currently not available to integrate with the likes of Yammer or other enterprise management tools, the ease at which users can ask and answer questions, promoting the ones they like or demoting those they think lack meaningful explanations, makes it a great tool for those who are just curious, as well as for those who need to know.

Imagine, however, if Quora was an intranet and employees could pose questions about almost anything, from ideas about how to develop products, to inquiries about customer demographics and requests for referrals for the best restaurant or place to live. Not only would it create a sort of living document that could cultivate sharing and crowdsourcing at every level, answers could be archived so that as a company grows, answers could be updated accordingly.

Jonathan Yarmis agrees. In a recent blog post, Yarmis, an analyst in the disruptive technologies industry, writes

…Quora starts from a bottoms-up perspective. Let’s not try to build a knowledge management “system.” Instead, let’s just ask questions. And instead of asking questions on behalf of some nameless, faceless organization, let’s ask on behalf of your friends. You’ll answer their questions because you’re wanting to help them, not because you’re trying to fill up a knowledge management system.

Embrace Quora, Empower Employees

As companies continue to confront the era of the empowered employee, it makes sense for knowledge management to take a groundswell approach. After all, it’s the employees who need the information the most. By giving them a Quora-like platform from which to ask questions or demonstrate authority is not only empowering, it helps manifest innovation, which also empower the bottom line.

One of the reasons for Quora’s recent popularity is that people are both inherently curious and know-it-alls. Having a platform that caters to filtering information by way of simple, straightforward questions and answers makes the transfer of knowledge seamless and well-organized.

Companies are encouraged to learn from Quora in 2011 and apply similar models to ensure that knowledge is not only well-managed, but easy to harness.