Tuesday, 5 February 2013


The knowledge faucet - the alternative to the knowledge firehose


running faucet Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport wrote in their classic book "Working Knowledge" that "Knowledge can move down the value chain, returning to information and data. The most common reason for what we call “de-knowledging” is too much volume”

We see that happening in many organisations, who seem to create a deluge of internal emails, blogs, microblogs etc which can become overwhelming. You can no longer drink from this Knowledge Firehose - you become overwhelmed and drown in the torrent of (what has become)  information and data. Knowledge can move so far down the value chain that it becomes Noise.

The Knowledge Firehose is counter-productive, and can destroy exactly the value you are trying to create. Instead, aim for the Knowledge Faucet - "Knowledge on tap".

You do this in three ways.

Don't broadcast - narrowcast. There is no need to send people everything - set up defined channels so that new knowledge can reach the people who need to see it, and will not clog up the inboxes of people who do not need to see it.

Work through Pull, not Push. Rather than publishing, work through seeking and searching. Make knowledge visible, findable and available, and develop a culture of learning before doing - looking for knowledge when it is needed.

Aim for "Just In Time" knowledge supply. Ideally knowledge should be transferred to people when they need it, not "in case they need it". If you can automate this supply, even better! The main point here is that people don't pay attention to knowledge until they actually need it. Up until that point, it's Noise. At that point, it becomes of huge value to the receiver.

2 comments:

  1. But please also don't forget that in especially dysfunctional organizations, knowledge is a source of power. So just in time information can become an excuse not to share. Balancing that is key, and tricky.

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  2. 'Narrowcast' is a good one. It is very important that one is not overwhelmed with knowledge which may or may not be needed or useful at all. I think this also connects to the fact that only just in time knowledge is needed. Facts are needed. Hypothesis is needed too, but meaning hypothesis! Sharing stuff that doesn't make sense is senseless indeed. I may want to agree to this... Is there more?

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