Tuesday 28 October 2014

Content and Conversation - the two subjects of KM

I have blogged a few times about Connect and Collect - the two parallel approaches to transfer of knowledge. Now lets look in more depth about the subject of that transfer - the material or the stuff that is enabled by the transfer. 

  • During the Connect approach we facilitate the transfer of knowledge through Conversations, whether these are electronically moderated or face to face.
  • During the Collect approach we facilitate the transfer of knowledge through captured and codified Content in the form of documents, files, text, pictures and video.
We also know that Conversations are a far richer medium than Content (see here - thanks Valdis) - potentially 14 times richer, though Content can reach far more people, and has a longer life-span than a conversation.

Any comprehensive Knowledge Management framework needs to enable, promote, facilitate and otherwise support both conversation and content.

Managing conversation without content leaves no trace, other than in the minds of the people involved. That is itself is useful, and we know that most of the processes of Knowledge Management, such as Retrospect, After Action Review, Peer Assist and so on are valuable individual learning experiences. But managing conversation without content is not a valuable organisational learning experience. Unless new knowledge becomes embedded in process, or guidance, or recommendations, it is never truly "learned", and without this we find knowledge becomes relearned many times, with errors being repeated, wheels reinvented and so on.

Managing content without conversation leads KM towards the already established fields of Content Management and Information Management, and you could (as the author of the famous "Nonsense of Knowledge Management" did) challenge what KM adds over and above these other disciplines. A focus on content without conversation results in a focus on publishing; on creation of knowledge bases, blogs, wikis, as a proxy for the transfer of knowledge; on Push rather than Pull. But unless people can question and interrogate knowledge in order to internalise it, learning can be very ineffective.

There is a saying in social media circles that "Conversation is King, Content is just something to talk about".

Like any other attempt to avoid duality, this is wrong. Knowledge Management, as a field, is far more "both/and" than it is "either/or".

Content and Conversation are the King and Queen of Knowledge Management - they rule together.

Content is something to talk about, Conversation is where Content is born and where it is Tested.

As a Knowledge Manager, please focus equally on both, and please do not assume that all Conversation needs to be written either. Face to Face is still the preferred transfer mechanism for high-context knowledge, and "getting people together to talk about what they know" is an amazingly effective tool within your Knowledge Management Framework.

1 comment:

Neil Olonoff said...

Nice summation. Not sure "connection" is entirely comprised in conversation, but it's still an excellent overview!

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