Of late I’ve been posting about the concept of knowledge management in relation to social computing and networks, mostly focusing on how social computing networks are more self-organised keeping context intact, where knowledge flows rather than being managed. But I do agree that there is a need for a coordinator to facililtate, set boundaries, curate, garden, etc…
A lot of the talk is focused on whether the process of codification is managing knowledge anyway, it’s non-effectiveness due to a lack of high abstraction and shared context…and my investigation leading to a realisation that “explicit knowledge” is just information.
I do agree that blogs, like offline conversations with people you know, have more of a successful chance in transferring know-how, as there is familiarity and probing with the source, an “as it happens rawness”, with no other intention except expression, compared to codification that is written with an end result in mind. Rather than codification, the coordinator takes a curating approach to compile these similar fragments. You could call this codification or perhaps a review, but at least it’s based on the raw workings out, which can be referred to for more information.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum of trying to find usable information at a time of need, and ultimately whether this behaviour is too narrow for organisations to adapt, respond and learn…compared to a social ecosystem that is more tuned in, the “come to me web” effect (links, tags, subscribing)…where we have more capabilities and situational awareness to act.
Let’s get over the addiction or safety to the supply-side of “best practices”, and become a network of radars for innovation. I think there is a place for best practices, but not too much where you don’t allow the processes or conditions for the emergence of innovation.
For more, read my previous posts to catch up on how social computing networks better achieve the aims of knowledge management without even trying to do it, this being the first stage that is a part of a bigger change of how we work and are managed, where managers may be more effective as facilitators and coaches and knowledgeworkers more autonomous in getting work done.
Gee, that was a bigger introduction that I intended, but readers of this blog will be familiar with my brain splurges.
In this post I’m sharing the thoughts of others that are also riding this wave of a more effective and enjoyable way to work, first up is Lee Bryant from the Headshift blog:
“Some have millions of documents in primary EDMS storage, but they have literally no idea which ones are important. Thanks to centralised storage and centralised access, nobody can find what they need and eveybody fears they are missing something important. But contrary to the KM orthodoxy, you cannot actually codify knowledge - it downgrades to information when stored in databases, and crumbles to dust.”
“The problem with existing enterprise software is that there is simply not enough diversity of inputs to stimulate intuitive decision making, which is why the most adept individuals in organisations rely on more basic, offline techniques to know what is going on.”
“The information overload people face within organisations today is the worst kind: the wrong sort of information, with no individual control over inputs.”
“Instead of trying to gather all data and then analyse it in real-time, we need to help people build a better radar, go with the flow and trust in their own ability to sense what matters and make decisions. We need more peripheral and contextual information and less sequential memo and email processing. We need to create multiple paths to things we need to improve findability, as Peter Morville says, rather than focus just on storage and retrieval. Classification within organisations is calcification - it kills context. Social navigation and filtering is cheaper and more effective.
We need a new relationship between people in companies. We are hard-wired for socialisation, but enterprise tools are based on 1950’s management thinking that treats us like machines in a production line. The focus of information sharing in support of decision making should be on weaving the social web and allowing people to negotiate their own language and meaning by adding social markup to existing corporate data.”
Next is Dan Rasmus:
“The first time around, knowledge management was hardly a smashing success. When organizations several years ago tried to take advantage of the experience and insights of their workers, they captured information in large, structured data systems for access and retrieval. Unfortunately, those systems were often cumbersome and difficult to use, leading to low levels of participation and abandoned knowledge bases. Workers also suspected their own positions might be at risk after they shared their personal insights and knowledge.”
“Change happens too fast for people and organizations to rely exclusively on structured processes and the rigid IT solutions that support them.”
“…understanding about the role of knowledge in empowering people. Rigid, structured systems for data capture can easily be supplemented with more user-friendly applications that provide better integration into day-to-day work.”
“It is virtually impossible to design a process that anticipates every potential outcome. A DKE embraces people as part of structured processes and enables them to access the resources they need in a more flexible and responsive way. When people are empowered as a part of process-driven work, organizations can achieve the economy of structure, combined with the responsiveness and adaptability that only people can provide.”
“…most of the successful KM applications were workflow aligned and when KM was a separate document repository outside of business processes, it was much less successful. Then it became managing knowledge rather than supporting work”
Going back to my earlier post about knowledge and information, the insightful Paula Thornton, left a comment and I would like to share it here, she alludes to the impossible act of managing knowledge and instead says the aim is to “facilitate thinking to support ‘doing’”…this is inline with the concept of a learning organisation.
Then she gets into the epistemology, saying, “it isn’t information until it ‘informs’”.
And then this great anecdote on the need for personal context between you and the information for it to actually inform you:
“You’re in the middle of the Mojave desert. You come upon a gas station, but it’s abandoned. Lying on the counter is a map. Most would consider the map information: data in context. But there’s another criteria. It isn’t information until it’s in individually-relevant context (it has to be both important and understandable to me). In the middle of the desert, there is no context. The map is useless noise.”
Excerpts of my reply to Paula:
“I know where you are going Paula, KM is integrated into how you work. In the future there may not be KM, as it’s just how we work. KM is simply common sense, a way of being. Why would you work any other way.
The Net Generation would not have a clue they are knowledge workers, they are just being.”
“This stuff that organically emerges or manifests tells them something about themselves, they are learning from their interactions by participating. They can take back these rich insights and apply this new thinking in their doing (as you put it).”
“Social tools are humanistic as they are about conversation and connection, that’s how we get work done in the offine world.”
“I can see we need information managers, but I’m not sure about
knowledge managers, rather we need people that are more humanistic, learning type facilitators.”
“But we do need someone to make sure that all these knowledge sharing activities and way of being are occuring, this person will be managing knowledge-related activities, not knowledge itself.”
The I went over and found out that Paula, like I, is talking about this stuff from her own soapbox:
“The fundamental potential of 2.0 is emergent”
“The goal is not to manage knowledge, but to facilitate action or enhance thinking”
“Even more fundamental to the deeper philosophy here is that knowledge is relevant…it can only reasonably be applied to specific conditions. Few knowledge management technologies embrace the reailty and ensure that the relevant conditions are captured and likewise communicated.”
Paula alludes that knowledge needs to be free, to flow, bounce around, and evolve (and perhaps facilitated), rather than managed and shelved from the top-down.
Lyndar has a quote in the comments:
“Provided with the right tools and a culture that values openness, knowledge gets transferred effectively without management.”
As does Lou Paglia:
“I think in the 2.0 framework, the word “management” is almost synonymous with “enablement” or “facilitation”. We’ve shifted (or at least I think we have) from it meaning “full control”.”
In Dave Snowden’s blog post response he says:
“…I think it fairly self evident that a large number of business goals require knowledge to be managed in some form or other”
What I think Dave may be refering to is curating or steering the self-organisation, like a plumber directs water, like a film director directs a film.
I really want an example of this…
Perhaps an example could be the facilitator steering self-organised conversations into a direction that meet business goals. The facilitator can get involved or manipulate the flow of conversation by creating a blog post/comment, forum topic/reply that brings back the richness of the brainstorming and applies it to a task. Isn’t this the idea of Communities of Practice.
So perhaps we are moving on from knowledge management practices, to manipulating complex environments…not sure what you call this person other than a leader. I think leaders need to know how to deal with and steer complex environments, KM is not a separate thing, it should be embedded in how leaders work.
“Debates raged about the best ways to move back and forth between the codified ‘explicit’ knowledge and the less obvious, often invisible ‘tacit’ knowledge that surfaces in human interaction, and how best to enable or enhance the collaborative and interactive use of information and knowledge to get things done or create additional useful knowledge.”
““how to create a knowledge sharing culture?,” is not the right question. It’s more important to ask and understand “what you can do to encourage and facilitate connections?”, supplemented with tools, capabilities and socially-generated context, to help the appropriate information and knowledge be available when and where it is most needed and best used. This means that a much-needed role and focus is as a catalyst and facilitator of connections, helping others see why it is now this way and how things work”
“Knowledge transfer is self-assembling and self-organizing. It really can’t be otherwise … it is done by humans in interaction“
This is inline with Joe Firestone’s thoughts:
“ …the idea that we must make knowledge workers unusually altruistic to get them to share and transfer knowledge ignores the many examples of social systems and organizations in which collaboration is based on normal motivations including self-interest.”
Back to Jon Husband:
“Considering or planning a “knowledge audit” implies auditing static “physical” knowledge assets”
“We need to think more carefully about combining top-down design and direction of business processes with the bottom-up use of knowledge objects. The combination of structure and organic generation and synthesis can help manage effectively in continuous flows of incoming and outgoing information (knowledge objects are anything that we can coherently manage).”
“An appropriate amount of structure (design constraints) is necessary to enable consistent recall and findability of information.”
These last two quotes echo what we covered earlier, the role of the coordinator to steer by constraints…actually isn’t this what Jack Vinson always talks about…hmm…I’ll have to go back to his posts now that I’m ready for them.
The comments from Jon Husbands post…this is where the richness is, in these comments, where everyone is riffing off each other:
Jon Husband - “I do think we need a new word for what is often understood as “managing”, or a different (wider, more adaptive and more oriented towards sensemaking and taking practical action after the sense is clear) understanding of that word.”
Stephen Collins - “KM can exist without the technology. The technology offers a platform for pervasiveness and ease of implementation. But without management drive, cultural capability (localised or across the organisation) and openness, you’re doomed - tech or no tech.”
This makes sense to me, offline, there’s so much richness and know-how in conversations and interactions, and techniques like world cafe, story listening, etc. are an example. But you have to convene for the latter, what about the offline interactions that are happening as you do your work, this is why online networks are an important outlet to express you discoveries, questions, concerns, etc…
Paula Thornton - “I am still at a loss as to what is uniquely KM and to what purpose it serves that is not already served by established disciplines.”
Stephen Collins - “…anything 2.0 is not about the technology. Technology is and always has been an enabler.”
“…organisations feel they need a KM practice because they don’t actually do the things that embed KM practices into corporate DNA.”
“KM shouldn’t need to be “done” as a particular thing belonging to a particular part of the organisation. It should just be. Be a part of what you do every day. Be a part of how your organisation operates.”
“KM only needs a revolution where KM is implemented as a widget. As a “thing” to be done. As a process. Once you embed stuff in corporate DNA and people’s attitudes that are just about “doing stuff”, revolution becomes unnecessary.
Organisations that are truly successful with KM implementations (and E2.0, Web 2.0, etc., etc.) aren’t about having “a KM process”. They’re about changing the culture, the “way we do things around here”.”
Olivier Amprimo’s (Headshift) comment is a blog post on its own:
“KM is not about tools, it is about how we understand what is important in value creation.”
““What you can’t measure, you can’t manage”. Because knowledge is implicit, we have to explicit it to manage it. We need to rematerialize. KM did a good job by documenting and referencing knowledge. We have created some massive knowledge bases.”
For me once it’s explicit it’s information, but I will agree it’s an intimate know-how driven type of information. This difference here is in the quality of information, it’s personal and not subscribing to a structured spec, it’s expressed as it happens.
this mean interactions and conversations, and what is exactly managing mean in this scenario?
“That exactly where the shift is : from documentation to conversation.”
“With this shift, there is another shift happening. We change both our conception of knowledge management and knowledge itself. We now concentrate on knowledge sharing and we understand knowledge differently.”
I like this analysis below:
“When it comes to defining knowledge, one can distinguishes three dialectics: Explicit vs Tacit, Ontological vs Contextual and Private vs Public. The first one is based on the physical status of knowledge, the second one on its epistemological status and the third one on its economical status.”
“In the KM era ‘Explicit – Ontological – Private’ understanding prevails. That is the reason why there are many processes (explicitation), data (ontology) and egoist ‘knowledge is Power’ behaviors. This later is the reason why KM fails.
Social computing is based on a radically different ground i.e. ‘tacit, contextual and public’”
“We try to work on present knowledge, not past knowledge. We try to materialize conversations, knowledge on the go. ECM focuses on the result: a document. Enterprise 2.0 tools focus on the journey between the idea generation and idea formalization. In between what you have there is individual and collective work : reflexion and conversation. Enterprise 2.0 tools capture, at the very same time they enable, conversations. And in a much more efficient way than emails, distributed by nature, as centralized in one place (a blog, a wiki). You now have knowledge management on the go”.
Concurring with the thoughts of many others:
“While KM was regarded as a specific job, with a specific team who has specific expertise, it is now dispersed throughout the organization as embedded in operational processes. There is no KM anymore because it is just everywhere.”
“But what happens now with knowledge sharing is not often the responsibility of the KM team.”
“They don’t have to deal with data and documents, they have to deal with people. Only now Drucker’s “Managing knowledge is managing people” is operationally meaningful to KM people.”
Let’s end with a quote on Ray Sims’s blog on the convergence of KM and learning…somewhere complexity needs to fit in here:
“…the traditional distinctions as Knowledge Management is “seen as providing information to support performance of an indeterminate task at the moment of need,” whereas Learning is “seen as creating a more enduring change in the learner to enable him/her to perform better across a specified range of future tasks.””
“Learning is a peer to knowledge. To learn is to come to know. To know is to have learned”
Off to watch some clips on Informal Learning.