Monday 14 December 2009

KM and flying geese

You know what geese fly in a V formation? It's all about efficiency. The lead goose flies as normal, and all the other geese make use of the trail he or she has created, to save energy. In fact, they reinforce the trail, for the sake of the others flying behind. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. They could save up to 50% of their energy if they flew wingtip to wingtip, but this would require some pretty clever flying. Generally they save more like 15% of their energy (see reference).

The second benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.

This is a pretty good metaphor for KM. instead of lead goose, think of the lead learner. If they leave a trail of their knowledge that others can re-use, then the followers save energy (or save time and money). In fact, they reinforce the trail of knowledge, for the sake of the others following behind. We are not always learning leaders - we tend to take turns being in the front, so the learning is not always one way. We create efficiency savings for the company, and data from the oil sector suggests that learning from projects can give efficiency savings in the 10% - 15% range, with occasional savings in the 40% range (see here for example).

Maybe the visibility thing is part of the metaphor as well. KM not only allows efficiency savings, it allows us to keep track of every project in the group.

So let's make use of the knowledge of the leaders, let's fly in formation, let's save energy, let's avoid re-use, let's keep in touch with each other. Let's learn from the geese!


Peter Kemper said...

Very good metaphor Nick. My challenge would be : Why happy with the 15% when you can get the 50%?

I understand that 15% is a good score from a society perspective, but for a business I would try to aim for the 50 %

Peter J. Kemper

Nick Milton said...

I completely agree Peter. Geese opt for 15%, because anything more requires a degree of coordination which they cannot manage. It would require close coordination, flying wingtip to wingtip. There is no reason why, in our organisations, we can't do that. Unlike geese, we can plan, we can cooperate, we can constantly communicate. Let's go for the 50%

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