Saturday 28 March 2009

Conversations about knowledge

Actually, the operative word is probably not "conversations" but "Dialogue". Dialogue is probably the single most important component of effective knowledge management.

It's the conversations that drive the identification, the exchange, and the implementation of tacit knowledge. This isn't just true of knowledge management either; risk management is driven by conversations about risk, safety management is driven by conversations about safety. And knowledge management is driven by conversations, or by dialogue, about knowledge.

All my favourite, most powerful knowledge management processes are dialogue-driven. It's the dialogue that allows people to reach a shared understanding of "what have we learned". Knowledge management planning is a dialogue about knowledge needs. Peer Assist is a dialogue to exchange and acquire knowledge at the start of a project. After Action Review is a ongoing, regular learning-based dialogue within a working team. Retrospect is a detailed dialogue at the end of the project to idenfity and clarify the team learnings. Knowledge exchange is a multi-person dialgue within a community or between two teams.

The time and attention given to this dialogue is crucial to effective learning, and to effective knowledge management. I remember Steve Denning saying at the Ottowa KM summit that the learning capacity of an organisation is directly related to it's ability to hold conversations, and I truly believe he was right.

Photo - Little Conversations Originally uploaded to Flickr by iwona_kellie

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