Thursday, 29 August 2013

Knowing what Good looks like

You Look Good To Me When we run knowledge management assessments for clients, we often run into something we call "overconfidence through ignorance", where someone will rank themselves good at something, when they are really very poor, just because they have no knowledge of what "good" actually looks like.

"Yes, we are very good at sharing best practice" they might say; "We have a conference every second year where people present their best ideas". And because they have no experience of (for example) daily discussions in a community of practice, or projects routinely hosting peer assists, with the associated deep discussion of knowledge topics, they think that a show-and-tell conference is an effective way to transfer knowledge, and that every second year is an appropriate frequency.

This is one of the gorilla illusions - the cognitive biases I wrote about in 2010 - known as the illusion of confidence.

So we find an interesting pattern;

  • A person who knows little, ranks themselves highly
  • As they learn a little more, their self-ranking drops dramatically, once they realise how poor they really are
  • Then as they gain (and apply) even more knowledge, their ranking begins to climb again

This is one of the primary reasons why any effective assessment of your Knowledge Management capability needs an experienced objective external view. That's one of the key pieces of knowledge any Knowledge Manager needs to know - "What would things look like, if we were really world class at Knowledge Management".

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