In Nancy Dixon's seminal series of blog posts, she describes the three ages of Knowledge Management, as follows
- leveraging explicit knowledge
- leveraging experiential knowledge
- leveraging collective knowledge.
Different countries, different industries, and different sectors (public, private and not for profit) are at different ages on this spectrum. It would be very interesting to be able to measure this industry-level KM maturity, and to be able to compare KM development across the globe. My suspicion, based on experience but few statistics, is that many industries are in level 1, the international oil, engineering and construction sectors are in level 2, and level 3 is reserved for the aid and development sector, and some of the military.
Unfortunately there are very few sector-wide KM studies available which can give us hard data, but a recent (2011) exception is this study of Knowledge management in the Dubai public sector.
The study presents several statistics, based on surveys and questionnaires. One set of statistics, on the technology supporting KM, tells us that 49% of the sector applies Intranets to KM, 54% applies data warehousing, 47% applies "collaboration tools" (in the absence of any further elaboration, one suspects the ubiquitous SharePoint), and only 14% have any form of lessons learned system. The latter is the only firm evidence for any form of Second Age "learning from experience", suggesting that the remaining 86% are not yet in the Second Age.
The authors conclude as follows;
In fact, the perception towards KM in most organizations is that KM is synonymous with Knowledge Management Systems (KMS). Most employees have limited and narrow conception of KM. They often think that the implementation of state of art technological instruments to store knowledge is all what KM is about, overlooking the other structural, cultural and managerial elements without which KM program is likely to fail to bring the desired outcomes.
This is a picture of a sector firmly stuck, for the most part, in the First Age of KM, where storing documents is considered more important than learning from experience.
Where would you place your industry?