Sunday, 8 March 2009

"The global water cooler" - a metaphor that doesn't work for me





Very often I come across the Water Cooler as a metaphor for knowledge management; most recently in an IBM slideset, where their vision for what they called "Knowledge Management 2.0" was the Global Water Cooler.

This just does not work for me, I am afraid. A water cooler is where you go for water. Sometimes you might meet someone there by accident, who might tell you something useful and provide you with some knowledge, but this is purely by luck.

Photo from Flickr Creative commons, taken by Str8upSkills

You can't rely on luck for knowledge management! Just imagine managing your finances the same way - "I need money for my project - I will go to the water cooler and hope I bump into someone who can give me some money".

If you need knowledge for your project, it would be equally crazy to say "I will go to the water cooler and hope I bump into someone who can give me some knowledge".

Knowledge management is too important to leave to serendipity. It needs to be a deliberate and managed approach to providing people with the knowledge they need, when they need it.

If you want water, go to the cooler. If you want knowledge, you need something far more focused.

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