Monday 25 April 2011

The core challenge of KM

The core challenge of KM can be summed up as follows

The people who have the crucial knowledge, are often unaware that they have it, are unaware how valuable it is, are unaware who needs to know it, and would not know how to go about sharing it anyway.

The people who need the knowledge are often unaware that they lack it, unaware that they need it, unaware that it exists already, are unaware of who holds that knowledge, and would not know how to go about acquiring it anyway.

In other words, the knowledge supplier does not know what they know, the knowledge customer does nt know what they need to know, neither of them realise the value of the transfer, and neither of them would not how to go about transferring it. This is particularly true when the knowledge customer's need comes several months or several years after the knowledge supplier gained the knowledge.

Knowledge Management therefore involves

  • helping people realise what they have learned, and the value of that learning
  • helping people realise what they need to learn, and the value of acquiring that learning
  • helping people understand how that learning can be shared and transferred


gerald said...

in short, the key challenge of KM is to optimize the Knolwedge Flows.


Nick Milton said...

Not so much that, gerald, as creating the conditions that drive flow in the first place.

Without an awareness that knowledge needs to be sought and shared, and an awareness of the value that this will deliver, then there is no flow to optimise.

If the drivers are there, and if people understand the need for KM, then even a suboptimal flow will add huge value.

So the key challenge is not optimising the flow, but creating the supply and demand.

Frank Leistner said...

Nick, really like this notion. I think missing awareness of knowledge and is an overlooked barrier to it flowing. My recent book actually gives a number of examples on how one could go about managing that flow (thx gerald), make sure the right drivers are in place and creating the right conditions for the flow to happen, and a key one is that knowledge even enters the flow - without anything going into the flow, there is no knowledge flow. I am also a big proponent of working on barrier reduction vs. trying to actively making people share. With the right supply and demand as you point out, valuable knowledge entering the flow, the right drivers (multiple) in place, but also work on reducing the barriers that hinder the flow, you can get to a stage that will definitely produce value.

Oz Benamram said...

Wouldn't Enterprise Search solve the first part of the equation? Provide access to the evidence of what people created of learned, without relying on them to declare it?

Nick Milton said...

Enterprise search will never find the things that people don't think to write down - the tacit knowledge, the unknown knowns, the key little tips and tricks that make up skill and experience, but which they don't realise is of value to others.

NatalieEschen said...

Any suggestions for solving the next challenge?: the use of email as the primary knowledge sharing tool. The knowledge never gets effectively managed and the "flow" essentially stops at one's inbox. Frank Leistner said "work on reducing the barriers that hinder the flow"- I agree. Can anyone provide the name of specific software that they have found to effectively use as a knowledge management system?

Nick Milton said...

Don't underestimate email as a notification tool. It's easy, it crosses all boundaries, it's pervasive, and it can be linked into wikis, blogs, yammer etc to provide asynchronous notfication.

However as a STORAGE tool for knowledge, it is totally inadequate.

Personally i think the search for a single specific KM software is a wild goose chase - better to look for an integrated suite of technologies.

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