Friday 6 July 2018

3 KM traps you need to avoid

According to one article, there are 3 main traps a KM implementation can fall into.

The article is in a study on Enabling Communities of Practice at EADS-Airbus.

One of the articles in this study, by Marleen Huysman and Dirk de Wit, discusses an analysis of KM implementations in several firms, and contains a section entitled "Identifying Traps and Ways to Avoid Them", summarised by the table below.

Six Research Questions and Their Dominant Biases and Related Traps

Research Question Knowledge-Sharing BiasKnowledge-Sharing Traps
Why is knowledge sharing managed?Control bias Management trap
When is knowledge sharing managed?Opportunity-driven biasManagement trap
Whose knowledge sharing is managed?Individual knowledge biasLocal learning trap
Where is knowledge sharing managed?Operational-level biasLocal learning trap
What knowledge sharing is managed?Codified knowledge biasICT trap
How is knowledge sharing managed?Technology-driven biasICT trap

The three traps they describe are these:

The ICT trap is the underlying assumption is that ICT can support and improve knowledge sharing within an organization. The authors say that -
Knowledge management is often seen as inherently connected to ICT. For example, the introduction of an intranet is seen as creating the facility for knowledge exchange, often in combination with a reward structure meant to encourage people to share their knowledge. Yet, when the technology itself is not fancy enough, or when the use is not adapted to the people working with the technology, people will be driven away despite rewards or punishments. This will curtail the knowledge management initiative. Unilever learned a lesson over the past years from falling into the ICT trap. The company started out by putting its faith in technology and the opportunities to map expert knowledge in databases. Soon it discovered that creating a network of experts, and facilitating physical encounters, opens a large potential for knowledge sharing. The ICT is introduced after the network has become established

The management trap is that the concept is perceived from a managerial perspective only . The authors say that -

Clearly, for managers there are several advantages to managing knowledge within the organization....  Management books and articles demonstrate a growing awareness that the intellectual capital of the corporation is usually worth much more than its tangible book value.. (However) because managers cannot force people to share their knowledge, knowledge management calls for support of knowledge workers. Knowledge management heavily depends on the willingness of knowledge workers to take part in it. The management trap also relates to the bias to introduce knowledge management based on opportunity-driven arguments only rather than on problem-driven arguments. We saw that knowledge management will be more successful when it addresses existing situations and problems than when it is seen as an opportunity for organizational change.

The local learning trap is about the risk of concentrating attention on local knowledge sharing without addressing the issue of how the organization as a whole can benefit from it.  The authors say that -

There is a potential pitfall when (KM) is interpreted as the management of individual learning instead of collective learning. During our research, we saw many initiatives approaching knowledge management as supporting knowledge sharing by individuals more than by collectives within organizations. That the focus tends to be more on individual learning rather than on collective learning is understandable, as managing individual learning is less complicated than managing collective learning. The role of managers will be pushed to the periphery, where their main contribution lies in the acknowledgement and facilitation of emergent grass-roots community behaviour. The most crucial consequence of the lack of management involvement is that shared knowledge will most likely remain local knowledge and will not be collectively accepted.

I think all of us can recognise these traps, and the key is to steer a path between them so that your KM  approach is not dominated by ICT, by Management, or by local individual learning.

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