Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Evolution of KM

KMers everywhere have been desperately attempting (but in vain?) to get people to stop associating KM only with content repositories and embrace other concepts like 

  • the simple sharing of thoughts, experiences, ideas, articles and musings (via internal and external blogs and microblogs, bookmarking), 
  • discovering colleagues who might collaborate, guide, mentor, or support employees (via internal social networking, author-discovery, people search), 
  • collaborating efficiently to co-create content and innovate through collective wisdom (via workspaces, conversations apps, wikis, community-platforms, discussion-Q&A forums). 
  • Additionally, KM also includes softer techniques like 
    • storytelling for effective knowledge sharing, 
    • checklists for effective knowledge capture and reuse 
    • after action reviews for learning from the past, 
    • unconferences for unstructured and serendipitous exchange of knowledge, 
    • social network analysis for finding important information nodes in the organization, job rotation, succession planning etc. 
In short, KM in its truest form is a versatile portfolio of various techniques and tools, rather than plain content reuse.

This may be painfully obvious to KMers who've been in this field for a while, but what could be the reasons why organizations typically stick to content management rather than pursue other ideas as well, as a part of their KM initiative? 

1. They live in the past and believe knowledge equals (or almost equals) structured content

2. They're not comfortable with spending energy and resources on things that are hard to control and bring discipline to (content collection and reuse is relatively easy to define, control and monitor) 

3. They're not comfortable with spending energy and resources on things whose benefits cannot be accurately quantified (content reuse is relatively easy to measure and quantify in terms of time saved) 

4. They don't see the connection between the 'new' techniques/tools and KM, as they know it. Therefore, they'd leave the pursuit (and facilitation) of these ideas to, say, the HR or Operations or IT functions, or the Project teams themselves

Which brings us back to the rhetorical question. Should we call Knowledge Management something else and wrap it up in something that sounds more commercial rather than academic? Will a rose by any other name smell better? And, not to forget, is it already happening in organizations that are using the label of Enterprise 2.0 or does that sound equally esoteric? 


Peter said...

Enterprise 2.0 smacks of instant redundancy. Pretentious and faddish - don't use it!
I believe that the enhanced credibility of KM will come from proven usefulness. Busy managers want a facility to move faster, reach agreements faster, enhance performance at all levels of staff faster. Enable that and you've cracked it!

Nimmy said...

Thanks for the comment, Peter. "Pretentious and faddish" - I am afraid you may be right! :-|

Bill Proudfit said...

KM suffers from not having an adequate definition of knowledge - check out the Knowledge Wheel here -

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much, Bill. The Knowledge Wheel looks really neat! I think we could possibly come up with some more flavours of this seen from other perspectives.