Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why and How....The VIPs

Whenever I start a new activity or task, I feel complete and confident only when I've attempted to answer the most critical of questions - Why, What, Who, When, Where, and How. (Rudyard Kipling's famous expression - the six honest serving-men). Answering Why and How gives me a lot of satisfaction for obvious reasons. Why explains the purpose and reasoning behind things and reveals the driving force. How results in successful execution and helps us dig into the details, unfold every dimension of the activity and discover everything that may matter. I am of the opinion that answering What will be quite easy once the Why is clear. And, How naturally follows the What. Who, When and Where are definitely important but, arguably, easy to crack once we know the answers to Why, What and How.

I guess you may now be wondering what I am driving at! :-) Well, to my mind, KM systems should approach knowledge sharing and exchange in the light of the above. People may find it easy to outline answers (verbal or written) to all questions except Why and How. Why so? Because Why involves a lot of contextual, historical, intrinsic, intuitive, inspirational and difficult-to-articulate knowledge. And also ,unfortunately, in many cases, people may not even have thought about why something is being done. (The orders come from the top and are executed without being questioned and understood why it has to be done.) How, on the other hand, is difficult to elucidate because of the sheer volume of details, complexities and inter-relationships, and presence of content that transcends simple information sharing and touches areas concerning physical action and skills. Moreover, even if the knowledge provider were to successfully share the answers to Why and How, the person who receives it is likely to have a different interpretation of these dimensions as compared to What, Who, When and Where! But what do you know? Tsk. Tsk. Life has its laughs. The most valuable knowledge that needs to be shared and leveraged upon, ironically, exists in answers to Why and How! Therein lies one of the most dicey challenges of Knowledge Management.

That is why Knowledge Management cannot be equated to simple repositories. It has to transcend them and progress into practices that get closer to people and their day-to-day routine; practices that touch people, identify them, relate to them and their behaviours, activities and thoughts. That is why we need to focus on collection-based connections, continuous debates and discussions through communities, mentoring and shadowing, and exhaustive collective thinking and learning. Identifying knowledge that is relevant from the long tail (of knowledge) is possible only through such collaborative methods.

On a related note, I wonder whether there will be a radical change in the approach that schools will have towards education here on. With the increasing internet proliferation and popularity of the Web 2.0 culture, students themselves are going to be open to (actually, excited about) a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one. Schools must make use of the changing environment and values and encourage collaborative and collective learning while, at the same time, retaining the individualistic streak in children. Tough job. We need thought-leaders who can show us how to balance the two. (The Long Tail, I guess, is an example of collaboration as a subset of individualistic preferences)

5 comments:

wake_up_then_walk said...

I came here in search of knowledge mgmt inputs and since then i have stayed back.
Stay hungry, stay foolish. God bless.

wake_up_then_walk said...

I came here in search of knowledge mgmt inputs and since then i have stayed back.
Stay hungry, stay foolish. God bless.

Nimmy said...

Thanks a bunch, Rakesh! And hope you have some great trips around the "Circle of Life"! :-)

MADHAVI said...

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