Wednesday, 23 March 2011

KM and national culture 4 - USA and middle east

A fourth installment in this mini-series on KM and national culture

North America

In the USA, analysing successful projects is not a problem: everyone wants to do it! Also the North Americans take very easily to online communities – so easily, in fact, that it can be harder to introduce some of the other knowledge management activities. The pioneering individual spirit frequently seen in the USA is a powerful driver in communities which take a bottom-up approach, and can result in excellent sharing and collaboration. Contributions to wikis and knowledge bases are likely to be generous. The same creative and collaborative attitude needs to be fostered in more structured activities such as knowledge capture sessions and KM plans. US knowledge management tends to concentrate on technology, and the US knowledge manager should look at introducing face to face processes for knowledge sharing as a way of complementing and building on sharing through technology.

Middle East

A strong oral culture, knowledge sharing is embedded into normal life in the Gulf, for example in the Kuwaiti Dewaniya’s, or talking circles, seen in many people’s home (known as Majlis in other countries in the region). This type of peer-based informal exchange within a trusted circle is likely to be far more productive than a more formal approach, where corporate hierarchy can get in the way. Middle Eastern cultures thrive on relationships, and relationship-building will be very important as a basis for knowledge- sharing. Communities of practice work well where they are based on peer relationships and where they operate face to face. Online communities may be less effective until the relationships are secure and solid, and knowledge management systems based on voluntary submission of material to an online knowledge base may prove to be hard work.

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