With all this km 2.0 talk about fostering information sharing with a bottom-up approach, how do we go about implementation and processes. At the same time there is another movement that hits at the fundamentals in eliciting, sharing and transfering knowledge based on a more humanistic approach, as well as viewing the big picture of km as an ecology rather than a machine.
From the onset I will refer Organic km as a new framework or approach to km in general, and km 2.0 in relation to web 2.0 sharing and networking tools.
The problem I hear about km in the past is that it has been too technology focused, “…you have the tools, why aren’t you using it”.
One of the lessons learned has been that technology alone won’t work, people need to know how to use it, and need to want to use it…knowledge culture is the main driver here. I guess this neglect coupled with the km identity crisis of the past (km is part IT, part upper management, part HR, part e-learning, part Library) has led to many failed attempts at using km to foster a knowledge culture.
NOTE: I like the knowledge champion idea.
David Snowden basically attributes this to the management style, he sees Knowledge Management (managing Intellectual Capital) as more of an ecology than a machine, his ideas of Organic Knowledge Management and sensemaking are humanistic in contrast the the mechanistic and scientific approach of the business process re-engineering management style used in the past.
I won’t delve too much into Organic Knowledge Management as you can read the approach, style and process in his 3 part series…but I’ll try to encapsulate the style.
Just briefly the elicitation of knowledge in this more humanistic approach is of an experiential nature (based on anthropological techniques); collecting anecdotes, extracting evidence of aspects of knowledge (KDP’s) from the anecdotes via the ASHEN model…further techniques are storytelling (regains context of the experience and triggers further discovery).
Also from the same article are some key heuristics:
Knowledge is only ever volunteered: it cannot be conscripted
- people will reluctantly share a quality of experience to a criteria, but volunteers will be more passionate and qualitative
When codiying we will always lose context and content
- more knowledge will be gained from observance and experience rather than just reading some documentation
Knowledge is only known at the point it is needed
- this is why oral sharing like storytelling is more holistic (knowledge is more accurate or moreso holistic when in context and at the time of action)
- this is also why the KDP and ASHEN techniques are there to make sure every angle is covered, short of re-living actions and context through storytelling
Knowledge is both a noun and a verb (ie. is an object and a capability)
Here is a great quote from part 3 that paints the big picture in relation to the organic approach (reminds me of landscape architecture):
“An organic solution does not reject large-scale systems, but it does reject their design in isolation from practice. A simple metaphor will illustrate this. I plant grass in the courtyard and observe paths that people naturally wear across the grass then, when I build paths, I will build them where they are needed with consequential lower cost and higher utilisation. Which is not to say that I might not also plant the odd hedge or use landscape features to guide the flow of feet!”
The main framework where we can observe or encapsulate the enterprise ecology or organic nature in relation to knowledge management or sensemaking is the Cynefin framework…Anecdote has more, here’s an excerpt:
“The beauty of the Cynefin framework is that it accepts the validity of rational, linear, and mechanistic explanations, but it does not regard these as universally apllicable for all problems.”.
Here’s a post on intervention, which highlights or accepts that behaviour cannot be predicated (cause and effect) when in a complex ecology.
For more on Organic km and techniques such as sensemaking, story telling, narratives (and also CoPs, and SNA) see the Anecdote blog, these guys talk from practice…also look out for their new Most Significant Change service, Zahmoo.
The Real Tacit
Sharing and transfer alone will not solve the tacit knowledge puzzle, some things can’t be learnt off a piece of paper so why bother documenting the process other than to know it exists. Above I have briefly mentioned that the organic km techniques identify this issue and choose elicitation and oral sharing methods as best fit. Mainly due to re-creating the context of knowledge in action, which induces more content, and the fact the people are voluntarily involved in the process, willing to share all they can remember (and as just mentioned these techniques do exactly that, create an environment that triggers memories associated with certain actions and incidents).
More towards the theoretical philosophy of tacit knowledge is an article by Haridimos Tsoukas, who illustrates that tacit knowledge can never be made entirely explicit. Internal knowledge imparting is part transfer and part practice…you can’t learn to be a car mechanic by just going to technical school, you need to learn by doing. By observing, language and practice is the best way to become equipped and empowered with new knowledge. Reason being is there are many aspects that make up a knowledge destination, and these peripheral aspects are not at the forefront, they are absorbed in the process. Only by doing and practice can we master the fluid and holistic nature of knowledge destinations.
Here are some outstanding articles based on a modern perspective on km.
These articles aren’t about social network/sharing web 2.0 tools, there are more about really understanding what km is from the the inside out (looking at human nature), from observance, learning and culture…rather than a top-down and non-contextual view.
Building the knowledge-based organization : how culture drives knowledge behaviours
Do we really understand tacit knowledge?
Guidelines for Identifying, Motivating and Supporting Knowledge Champions
km sustainability framework
The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world
Complex Acts of Knowing - Paradox and Descriptive Self Awareness
Turning knowledge workers into innovation creators
Leadership and the power of chaos
Sharing Knowledge manual
The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’
I = 0 (Information has no intrinsic meaning) (no longer exists…here’s my cache copy via furl)
Organic Knowledge Management (ASHEN) - Parts 1, 2 and 3
Various storytelling articles, such as Story-Telling1: Old skill new context, and Tools for Chief Knowledge and Learning Officers.
Some of the articles above are by David Snowden at the Cognitive Edge…take a look at his select bibliography. These articles are very mature and insightful; they cover anthropological techniques, brief history on management history…and the new way of km based on understanding human nature. A lot of the theory and models are based on the ways people cognitively and socially operate, achieving a collective cultural picture. The observation gained from understanding people has been the basis for developing a model from the people for the people.
Some articles I’ve read recently really hone in on the most fundamental aspect of km, and that is knowledge attitude, culture, learning, empowerment, innovation, championing and sensemaking. Sure we can attempt to get people to transfer and share knowledge, use collaborative techniques, and codify information, but for this to be sustainable there needs to be a knowledge culture, just look at all the people using social network web 2.0 services on the open web, they’re all doing this in droves because it’s about connecting, participation, passion, discovery and sharing…this amounts to personal knowledge growth, and an aggregate knowledge pool.
At the moment the km movement has been learning from all this and realising education and culture and attitude are the essential ingredients, not that some haven’t known this all along.
This does not mean we are teasing out tacit knowledge and codifying it (well we are documenting it, but is tacit really the opposite of explicit), all it means is that we are sharing information at a socially local level. I guess this stage of the movement has the hip label km 2.0…which I think is more focused on the knowledge sharing aspect of km.
NOTE: As explained above, there is another phase in the km movement in respect to the heart of km fundamentals based on sensemaking and the organic km framework or approach.
Work staff need to want to share knowledge, and I think the new wave of decentralised knowledge tools with a social connectivity aspect will emerge just what’s asked for…knowing who’s who, knowing who know’s what, know where to find what, etc…
There’s lots of social software in the new Read/Write web, but are all these tools required by the enterprise, or in certain industries…is it the right time at the moment?
Whatever the questions are people need to use these tools, they need to want to use these tools, so as always the adoption strategy is paramount.
There have been posts of late on how collaboration sits in the culture, attitudes, and capabilities of the enterprise…Dennis McDonald as a great post on this with links to some of his past posts (this is a great blog for use cases and the reality of web 2.0 in the enterprise).
Whilst I’m here for all things social in the enterprise there are 2 essential blogs by Luis Suarez, Elusa : the knowledge management blog and elusa ~ a km blog.
It seems the main aspect is the “tipping point”, there has to be an advantage for using these new tools…if they are just alternatives to send an email people won’t budge, they need to have their own unique benefits.
And of course like anything else, all levels of management must support and use these tools, as role models.
I think a trial project or business unit focus group is a great idea to start, if all goes well others will be envious they don’t have these tools and demand them.
I guess a trial with a CoPs group would be ideal as these people have a passion for this group, and will be more open to sharing and innovating in new ways.
I agree with what Anecdote alludes to in that web 2.0 in the enterprise coming full circle when the younger generation who have grown up with these tools are the main numbers in the workplace. Firstly they are tech savvy already, and secondly they will pick up new tools easier.
Actually I see blogging, wiki’s and bookmarking as ways to not only discover communities but to share topic based information in a loose and informal way…and now that Microsoft is getting into the game maybe the masses will take notice.
Check out the Socialtext post on, An adoption strategy for social software in the enterprise, it’s a real winner…also see Andrew McAfee’s post on adoption.
Also see the Socialtext customer stories, it’s great to see more use cases with social software.
Here is a paper on Babble, this is IBM supporting knowledge communities using an online environment.
Also I like the idea of expert locators as a knowledge tool, sure you can find information in a repository, but what about locating and talking to the person who created the document…sharing beyond the document. The other point to this productivity issue is time spent looking around.
Internal communication blogs and km2.0
Research librarian and web 2.0
Enterprise social sharing structure
social enterprise tools at scale|free
The different ways of finding experts
Microsoft Knowledge Network : expertise locator
KM is the Forest, Enterprise Blogs are the Path
KM: the forest for all the trees
How Can You Communicate the Corporate Benefits of Enterprise 2.0 Network Effects?
Barriers to knowledge sharing
My 10 essential km blogs:
Knowledge Jolt with Jack
Elusa : the knowledge management blog
elusa ~ a km blog
Portals & km
All kind food
Networks, Complexity, and Relatedness
Diary of a Knowledge Broker
Full Circle Online Interaction Blog
How to Save the World
I also found some blogs on SNA (Social Network Analysis) and Social Capital that I haven’t checked out yet:
Microsoft Knowledge Network Team Blog
Check out KnowledgeBoard’s Knowledge Bank Library for lots and lots of great articles (quick registeration).
[ADDED 4/10/06: Is there a Generation Gap in Collaboration?]
[ADDED 4/10/06: Adoption of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 Revisited]