Part three of this small series of KM and national culture.
Northern Europeans are very open to knowledge management, and the Scandinavians are no exception. Scandinavian society is very egalitarian, with very little “Power Distance” (the King of Norway used to travel on public buses during the war, for example). In knowledge management terms, this is manifest is a strong team spirit, which lends itself on the one hand to very generous sharing of knowledge, and on the other hand to a tendency to consensus. It can at times be difficult to find a “dissenting voice” in a strong team, and knowledge which challenges the accepted welcome may sometimes be difficult to uncover. Knowledge Management processes such as After Action Review, Peer Assist and Retrospect will need good facilitation, to uncover all useful knowledge. It may be worth using mechanisms that deliver the individual voice, such as asking for comments and learning points on post-it notes
In the South American countries where we have worked (Colombia, Argentina, and a little work in Chile), there is a great respect for Knowledge, and for the company experts. The knowledge held by these experts can be used as a real resource, and the role of the expert can be subtly altered so that they become the custodians of corporate knowledge, rather than the providers of personal knowledge. People who are not experts need to be reassured that their knowledge is also of value to the community, so that the knowledge base is not entirely expert-dominated. Community dynamics may need to be carefully managed so that the experts do not dominate, as there can be a reluctance to challenge the expert. The issues of knowledge sharing up and down the hierarchy can be addressed using techniques such as those described here by Nancy Dixon.