I went viral recently. My wife came home with a virus, which she generously passed to me. I had a sore throat for a week, but eventually I shook off the virus and returned to health. And that is the problem with introducing anything virally, including KM.
Influenza Virus by Kat Masback on Flickr
Virus de la Influenza / Influenza en México 5
Originally uploaded by Hector Aiza
Just as a body overcomes and destroys an infection, so the habits, routines, dogmas, and "not invented here"s can overcome and destroy even the best innovation. This explains why so many KM initiatives start well, flare up like a fever, then 6 months later have disappeared completely, and the company is "back to normal".
As Victor Newman says - "All cultures are relatively “sticky” in the sense that they resist pressures to change".
We need a way of reducing the stickiness, and reducing the rejection rate. We need to make KM more like a transplant to be incorporated, than an infection to be fought.
That's where management need to be involved. They need to welcome the initiative, and to dampen down the resistance. Victor describes building relationship capital throughout the organisation until the management layer sees you as one of their own rather than a foreign body. They can then help suppress the sticky organisational immune system long enough for KM to become embedded into the fabric of an organisation, like a transplant or a heart pacemaker is assimilated into the body.
Think Transplant, not Virus, if you are looking for long term change.