Monday, 8 February 2010

The KM 1.0 myth

There's a lot out there about so-called KM 1.0 - what people see as having been the nature of the early stages of KM, which they often then contrast with today's enlightened times.

For example this "The traditional approach to KM, dubbed KM 1.0, is about "deploying" specific knowledge sharing tools to be used for extra "above-the-flow" tasks of capturing and sharing knowledge in the form of structured content. Since those tools are usually quite cumbersome to use, and are justified by potential reuse of content by others in the future, their use is mainly enforced by a culture of recognition and rewards for those who share, and/or sticks for those who don't".

or this "KM 1.0: all about content and collection"

or this "KM 1.0 techno-centric, command and control, centralised monolithic systems, email, databases, KM is extra work, IT select the tools"

or this "the old traditional, corporate, techno-centric, command and control form of KM"

or this "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".

or all of this

I am afraid I am going to be controversial here.

If you look back at the beginnings of KM, to where it started, it was not about collection, and not about command and control at all. If you look back to the 90s, you can see the birth of social media in Lotus notes, you can see the storytelling work done at World Bank, you can see the Communities of Practice at IBM, at Xerox, at Shell. Almost all the work we did at BP was about Connection rather than Collection - the Communities of Practice, the face-to-face conversations within Peer Assists and After Action reviews, the Virtual teamworking using the first generation of desktop videoconferencing to bring people into conversation.

This may be "Old" in historical terms, and it was of course far from perfect, but it was a long long way from the 1.0 caricatures quoted above.

KM in the 90s was about Connection as much as it was about Collection, if not more. It was about empowerment, not command. It was about conversation, not content. It was about devolution, not centralisation.

I agree that a focus on content, on collection, on monolithic databases, is a Bad Thing if it happens at the expense of connection, conversation, and putting knowledge in the hands of the users. But this change of focus is not a simple historical progession or evolution, and the myth of "they were wrong and we are smarter" is more than simplistic, it is plain wrong.

The Collect/Connect debate is not a question of 1.0 and 2.0, not a question of old vs new, not a question of traditional versus radical, and not a question of demonising the past and glorifying the future. It is a debate that is happening now, and will always be with us so long as KM continues.


Ash said...

Hi Nick,

I came across this post from a online referral, hence the late reply. I find myself half agreeing with you in this particular case. While early work in the 90's might well have began without IT lead solutions, such as CoPs and Storytelling, wouldn't you say that this early period was at least dominated by command and control IT centric tools?

I do agree that both areas have their place, although as a bias I'd still lean towards the people side as way more important.

nick milton said...

Hi Ash - "wouldn't you say that this early period was at least dominated by command and control IT centric tools?"

No, I wouldn't. I would say these came later, in the late 90s and early 00s, as IT companies leapt on the bandwagon.

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