This blog has often argued that dialogue is at the heart of effective knowledge transfer, and that without dialogue it is difficult both to access the deep unconscious learning, and also to check whether the knowledge customer properly understands the knowledge that has been offered.
However many companies operate knowledge transfer systems, such as lessons databases or knowledge bases, which involve no dialogue at all.
Do these work? Under what circumstances can they work? Here are 3 cases
1. Dialogue-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the context of the knowledge is very clear.
Take the example of cookery books; these are a very effective means of transferring the knowledge of how to cook certain dishes. The context of cooking a meal is a clear context, shared between the author and the reader. However if you move outside that context, for example moving to another country where the ingredients and measures are different, or opening your house as a pop-up restaurant, the results may be disappointing. If you want to move to a more creative context, you will probably take cooking classes and discuss what you are learning with a professional chef.
2. Dialogue-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the nature of the knowledge is limited.
Take the example of road maps; these are a very effective way of transferring the knowledge of how to navigate from one place to another. Most motorists have a road map in their car, or a sat-nav. But for more complex knowledge, like the details of finding a specific house down country roads, you need the advice of people with local knowledge (see my blog post on Charts and Pilots; charts are fine on the open sea, but every large vessel entering port uses a pilot to travel the last mile or so).
2. Dialogue-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the knowledge is very mature at user-level.
When a topic is mature, everything is known. We know all the questions that can be asked about the topic, and all the answers. All of this can be fully documented, for example in an online FAQ or knowledge asset. Even then, there will be advanced-level nuances which experts may still need to discuss, but for the average user, this knowledge can safely be codified. However if a topic is not fully mature and is still evolving, then the answers in the FAQ may change, and new questions may arise. There will be knowledge that is needed that is not yet "in the manual" and will need to be exchanged through dialogue.As I pointed out here, any Knowledge Management framework needs to focus on Conversation (through dialogue-based processes) as well as on Content, other than in the three cases described above.