Tuesday, 4 March 2014

3 models of Knowledge Sharing - the role of the centre

I blogged recently about three models for knowledge sharing - the three models shown here.

We can call them centre-out, out and in, and multiflow.

In our picture here, the red dots are the central group of experts, the white dots are the knowledge users or knowledge workers, and the white arrows are the flow of knowledge. As explained in the blog post, any organisation can use all three models at once for different types of knowledge, often using centre-out for strategic knowledge or knowledge of principles, out and in for operational knowledge or knowledge of procedures, and multiflow for tactical knowledge or knowledge of practices.

In a workshop last week, I had a very interesting discussion about the role of the experts in each of the models.

In the centre-out model, the experts OWN the knowledge. They are the sole source of knowledge, and do all the learning activities themselves. Their primary role is CONTROL. They work with Mandated Practices.

In the Out-and-In model, the experts act as AUTHORITIES. They do not own the knowledge, but they audit and validate it on behalf of the community of practice. Many of the learning activities are conducted by others, but coordinated by the experts (for example projects might conduct lessons capture meetings, and the actions and lessons are forwarded to the experts so that the Knowledge Base can be updated). The experts' primary role is STEWARDSHIP. They work with Best Practice.

In the Multiflow model the experts act as COORDINATORS and DESIGNERS of the learning system. All the learning activities are conducted by others, but the experts and other leaders set the expectation and provide the resources for learning. Their primary role is GOVERNANCE and GUIDANCE of the learning processes. The network as a whole works with Good Practices.


Frank Guerino said...

Hello Ian,

Thanks for the post. At the foundation, we've identified three models for management structure...

.1: Centralized
.2: Federated
.3: Hybrid (Centralized coordinating Federated)

I read through your three definitions and I wonder if the alignment would be:

- Centralized = Centre-Out
- Federated = Out and In
- Hybrid = Multiflow

Do you believe they would align this way? Why or why not?

Also, the Foundation just published an Enterprise Knowledge Management Taxonomy (http://www.if4it.com/SYNTHESIZED/FRAMEWORKS/TAXONOMY/enterprise_knowledge_taxonomy.html) that identifies approximately 1,000 different KM Categories. For an enterprise, I would imagine that each KM Category in the taxonomy would represent the dots in your three models and where the information would flow to/from. Your thoughts?

My Best,

Frank Guerino
The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT)

Nick Milton said...

This is not a management structure Frank, it is a flow of knowledge between individuals - the central experts and the front line users.

The dots on the models are supposed to represent individuals.

Unknown said...

It is very encouraging to see actors, links, structures and patterns, i.e., SNA, begin to penetrate the KM discourse. There is a long, long way to go. The baby steps are important. It would be even MORE encouraging if your forget about 'sharing' and focus on creation. Sharing is not a problem. Also, the core function of brokering is absent. See:



Blog Archive