In Andrew’s paradox post he posted on choosing whether your KM strategy is going to focus on the explicit or the tacit…I personally think you can do a bit of both.
Here’s the excerpt:
“This is perhaps the oldest of the paradoxes and the most intractable: whether to focus on explicit or tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is information that is written down: project documents, white papers, lessons learned, best practices, etc. Tacit knowledge is all the information your constituents have garnered from experience but still have locked up in their heads.”
“A focus on explicit knowledge usually leads to an emphasis on search, taxonomy (categorizing the explicit knowledge), and sometimes selection (e.g. qualifying best practices). A focus on tacit knowledge often requires a concentration on establishing and encouraging communities (where tactic knowledge can be shared), story telling…”
At work our Global KM lead has tackled the explicit part by going around the world and getting a feel for how our people find and look for information, and to also discover all the information providers such as the library catalogue, intranet, document management system (DMS), this system, that system, etc…
I guess you can call this a information audit or mapping, with the goal of identifying all the silos and somehow bringing them together to form some sort of cohesiveness, like a gateway page (something more navigable, with some more information scent), and perhaps some integration like federated search. We have also decided to take the published deliverables that live across all these silos and make a new silo for deliverables At least this way when you want to use a standard, procedure, best practice document, they are all in the published library.
So far, all this is Information Management, next we move onto the more tacit space.
Since most know-how lies in interactions like physical conversations, on the phone, IM and email we decided to use communities as a way to make all this findable, learnable, visible, transparent, etc…(this is still in development).
My current role is Communities Coordinator, and I say to a lot of people that our communities are like our DMS, but for conversations. If the DMS stores documents, the CoP not only stores conversations, but that’s where they happen (you don’t have to upload your conversations, as they are already there).
So the CoP is like our DMS but more, you can store documents, and you can have conversations…I won’t go deeper than that in this post. BTW- the main CoP tools are forums and blogs.
We are also trialing wikis within some CoPs, which people have used for: events, meeting agenda/minutes, lists and workaround pages, events, catalogue pages, glossary, how-to guides…
In the future we plan to look at social networking and revamping our Intranet, perhaps the Intranet will be our social network…there’s plenty of enterprise products to choose from these days. I feel that social networks (the new breed of expert locator), social bookmarking, presence (micro-blogging) networks and blogs outside of communities are an essential layer in our enterprise 2.0 stack.
The CoPs and wikis have been about creating conditions for people to share tacit knowledge, or more importantly giving them simple tools so they can get their work done in a more open and re-usable way than using email.
So far, all this is Social Computing…it’s a self organising network that requires someone to lightly constrain it so it doesn’t self organise in the wrong direction.
What we have a need for here is knowledge champions and facilitators to be embedded in teams to help facilitate a new way of working, and other ways to share knowledge and make decisions using complexity and narrative techniques. Shawn Callahan also takes this seriously alluding that we always complain about missing out on communications and finding information, but then when it comes to embedding dedicated collaboration coordinators, it’s not taken seriously. If you want personnel managed you have a HR team, so if you want human behaviour facilitated in “socially working together” then you need knowledge champions (for use of a better term).
Even though I’ve said that this is all about social computing, when you add the element of facilitating and lightly contraining we tread into the realm of Knowledge Management (I do have a problem with this term but we are stuck with KM for the time being).
But you don’t have to call this Knowledge Management, it could be a Learning Coordinator, Working Coordinator, etc…you tell me. Most of all this person has to be tech savvy in collaborating, participating and emergence, but they also need humanistic (social, counselling) characteristics to understand cognitive and social qualities of people. We used to have “Industrial psychologists”, well now we are heading into the same ground for the new connected age, but I’d rather call this “Knowledge facilitators” or “Knowledge counsellors” or “Knowledge coaches”. Or leave out the word Knowledge all together, and use Network or something else, we just need to pay attention to the people skills and they way they interact, as Anecdote say Corporate Anthropologist sums it all up. I think this may be an intimidating and foreign name that people may not specifically identify or relate to…see more.
We do not have a process or procedure for distilling the rich knowledge in communities and the other tacit spaces into best practices, lessons learned, etc that will be housed in our published library.
My idea if we do this is for each of these documents (or wikis) to have a references page that points back to the blogs posts and forum topics so people can read the raw interactions that have been summarized into these deliverables
It’s my hope we don’t concentrate too much on this supply-side KM, being a solutions company, we must have an innovative bent, and an addiction to looking at the past is dangerous. It has to be said that best practices are not recipes that will be applicable for any situation, using them this way could be detrimental, as nothing is the same and predictable…and spending time on these is time spent not creating new knowledge.
Plus we know human behaviour is to go to people to find information, so we wonder how often the published library will be used for this sort of thing compared to using an expert locator (social network) or diving into raw conversations in forums and blogs. I personally think the published library will be more used for forms, procedures, etc…the real context-free, or soulless documents.
The best practice approach of summarizing what has come up in the communities is not too bad, but I disagree with the approach of a weekly mandate of “tell us what you know or learnt this week”…yuk, this is what communities are for and this know-how comes out as a byproduct, it’s embedded into routines. The “tell us what you know” approach is classic KM, and riffing on Snowden I call it “anticipating needs KM” or “maybe one day KM”, which usually starts off with a knowledge audit of what we know followed by a program of weekly/monthly sharing what you know into the knowledgebase (in the hope or anticipation that someone will one day need it), which is either mandated or rewarded. This is what gives KM a bad name as it’s resisted, unnatural, and gamed…it’s big brother society thinking.
KM is something extra that happens with the content of what comes out of the social computing ecosystem, but it also stewards (facilitate/contrain) this ecosystem so it doesn’t go astray.
It seems we could have social computing without KM (to some extent, but there needs to be some governance and guidance), but KM without social computing is going back to the ineffective classic KM days.
Beforehand KM had to mandate to get it’s job done, now it mostly just happens on its own.
IM - managing and organising information (this is the same as explicit knowledge for some)
KM 1.0 - is the top-down way to mandate (command and control) “what you know” documents into a database, as a separate job duty, and then seeking this database when you have a need.
Social Computing - is bottom-up and distributed, using communities and networks (participation, connectedness and openness) where “what you know” surfaces by default, and what you want to know is always coming to you (rather than the other way around)…perpetually learning (build capabilities/situational awareness) and facilitates thinking.
|KM 1.0||KM 2.0 (Social Computing)|
|Anticipates a need (just in case)||Anticipatory awareness
(”always on” knowledge flow/sense-making)
|Looking at the past||Living in the now (innovation)|
|Supply-based (content and collection)||Creation-based (context and connection)|
|After the fact summary (this is a problem)||As it happens (raw and in context)|
|Search/Taxonomy (no filters/ranking)
…this part is information management
(filters by ratings and your network)
|Rigid (read only)||Flexible/unstructured (read/write)|
|IT centric||People centric (discover/build relationships)
…actually it’s about the networks
|Centralised (Top down)||Decentralised (Bottom up)|
|Efficiency (Industrial age)||Effectiveness (Network age)|
|Reward as motivation/incentive (game the system)||Reputation as motivation (self-interest/gain)|
KM 2.0 - is facilitating, harnessing and lightly constraining what happens in the self-organised social computing network, and secondly distilling these contributions and interactions (publishings and commentary) from the mess of the social computing ecosystem into formal documents (which can be seeked)
Sure we can use tags to find the raw information and relevancy/ratings and our social network to further filter our results, but distilling this into formally captured documents is just like writing a review, sometimes non-tech people just want it all in one document.
They don’t realise that by delving into the network they are going to come across a lot more relevant information than what they were looking for, just like the web, this links here, then links there, which links over there…related posts, posts with the same tag, people who tagged this…just like surfing the neural network of an enterprise mind. It’s no longer about finding information, it’s about information finding you…it’s about being hooked up, it’s not seek when you need to know, it’s an “always on” ecosystem.
The question is how valid is this distilling when we have networks, still I think if these distilled documents are based on the content in the network and can point back to the raw information, then it’s more acceptable. Everyone likes making “best of” lists reviewing each point or perhaps weaving it into a report or essay…it’s human nature that we want to stamp done on a process, or done on a topic, we feel safe to close the book, but we must realise that the book never closes, as we are always perpetually learning.
The core KM Sample
I don’t know what just happened but Andrew’s post sent me off on a tangent on the usual stuff but more on the big picture perspective, let’s close with this diagram and some excerpts from his post.
[The diagram] “…captures the various levels of “knowledge” and where they reside. The diagram also illustrates the rationalization and codification of knowledge as it rises through the layers.”
I’ve quoted this gem in another post:
“the process of codifying or standardizing knowledge into actionable procedures and practices actually changes the knowledge. It cleanses, sanitizes, and simplifies the knowledge — removing the stray tidbits, the ugly but necessary workarounds, the secret tricks of the trade… all of the untidy clutter that make up true expertise in a field — all of this is stripped off to achieve a linear, documentable, process.”
Layer 1 - Personal Knowledge
“This is where true knowledge exists. In other words what people know. And the most accurate way of sharing that knowledge is talking to the people who possess it…”
Layer 2 - Tacit Knowledge
“The next layer up is where that personal communication is expanded to allow people to “talk” to others they do not know or cannot meet in person. Email distribution lists, forums, and other discussion technology reside in this layer. (Note that blogs are also in this layer.)”
Layer 3 - Best Practices
“…knowledge is instantiated in documents of some kind: sample documents, lesson learned, case studies, white papers. These all represent mechanisms used to selectively capture and sort knowledge in such a way that it can be reused by people who may never come in contact with the original author. The obvious limitation is that only a small portion of what any individual knows about their profession is captured in any of these documents. This is offset by trying to capture the most important or influential pieces of wisdom.”
Layer 3 - Institutionalised
“…captured knowledge and learnings are further refined into a defined set of templates, guidelines, and standard processes. In some sense, you might say that in this final layer the actual “knowledge” has been removed and is replaced by step-by-step procedures to ensure a consistent and reliable execution of desired behavior. To achieve this goal, a significant amount of sorting, sifting, and selection is required to winnow down all possible options or alternatives to a limited set of recommended or required processes and deliverables.”
I hope Andrew doesn’t mind me nearly re-posting his whole post, but I just want it for my record, I think it’s in my top 10 blog posts on KM.
Seven ways enterprise 2.0 differs from web 2.0 (actually it’s 12 and counting)