The KM Community in Bangalore meets up once every month to hobnob and (informally) strategize on KM. Given Bangalore’s traffic and the distance that one typically has to cover to attend these sessions (and mostly during the peak hours in the evening), I don’t, unfortunately, get to attend many of these meetings. But yesterday was different. The community met in the block right next to my office and I excitedly strode in, eager to learn a few new things and chat about a few known things.
The session had two speakers – Ramesh from Adobe and Dinesh (@dineshtantri) from Thoughtworks.
Ramesh happens to be a principal scientist and has nothing to do with ‘classical KM’ as he put it. But, if you ask me, he touched upon some of the most important aspects of KM. (I often think that KM is nothing above common sense and genuine faith in collective knowledge and benefits of collaboration).
Ramesh introduced the audience to some fancy tools and practices at Adobe
- a smart people directory integrated with details about location, reporting hierarchy, search, instant communication features, offline capabilities etc
- a tool that allows communities to share PPTs and recorded sessions including features that allow for any employee to edit, annotate, comment and discuss with the rest of the organization
- yammer for microblogging
Ramesh spoke about the importance of the need for KM tools to have personal relevance and be available from browsers (rather than have to be installed on the desktop). He also showed what Adobe was doing in terms of making collaboration and sharing possible from within documents. He demonstrated an Adobe document that had an inbuilt application that would respond to a ‘what-if’ analysis on an already collated data table.
An interesting discovery was that Adobe apparently does not have a department or function called “KM”.
Later, Dinesh from Thoughtworks spoke passionately about the importance of aligning KM strategies with Business strategies and came up with a pictorial representation that emphasized on the need for KM to lie in the intersection between Business Strategy, HR Strategy and IT. He spoke about the importance of working alongside HR to identify potential employees (assessing them for their KM quotient). He also advocated the use of SNA to understand how people connect with each other within the organization (Ref: Trampoline). He ranted about the overestimation of the importance of content repositories and asked the audience to rather focus on connections between people. He mentioned initiatives that not only connect employees but also cover ex-employees, potential employees, customers, suppliers and partners. He also touched upon the importance of providing anecdotal evidence of the benefits of KM to compensate for the complexity and abstractness of RoI-assessment efforts. He put up slides that demonstrated the clutter in the KM field – a whole plethora of tools, practices and ideas that jostle for space in KMers’ minds.
I guess there were more aspects that were discussed but have probably slipped my mind as of now. If any of you folks who were there at the session are reading this and think I should have included something very important, from your perspective, please do feel free to leave your comments here.
Now, coming to what I am thinking of as a direct consequence of the session yesterday….
I think many of us KMers who have been here long enough are somewhat aware of many of these aspects but where we perhaps fail is in engaging the decision makers and being influential enough to make the change. (Which takes me back to something I’ve always ranted about…the CKO should be a powerful person reporting directly into the CEO and therefore have a say in most related matters like HR, IT, Quality etc) Most business leaders are always in a hurry and do not want to focus on what seems to be abstract. They’d rather approve the implementation of what seems tangible to their minds. It’s time for us in the KM community to start discussing the details…go beyond the policies and the ideas and study and understand how to tackle things at the ground level. We may not be able to teach each other how to be influential but we can still break through some of the organizational resistance to KM by focusing on relevant examples, publishing case studies that include contextual knowledge and solutions, discussing day-to-day experiences etc. I know some of these things will not come easy due to there being representatives of competitors amongst the community members but I think it is nevertheless doable.
Also, I think KM challenges, objectives and solutions are quite different from one organization to another and we perhaps need to spend some time understanding and bucketing (roughly) environments that we work in. This may not altogether avoid the fallacy of people blindly copying other organizations’ KM strategies and solutions but it will at least make them pause and think about the uniqueness of their own environments.
That’s all for now. I suspect that there are some more thoughts trying to find a place here. I can hear some muffled voices at the back of my head. Actually, it sounds like these entities are gagged….but to go on and expose them will be an overkill. We’ll bring out those voices some other time.