Thursday 17 May 2012

Making knowledge visible

cup_invisible One of the biggest challenges in Knowledge Management is the invisible nature of Knowledge.

You can't see it, you can't measure it, you can't tell when it's missing, other than by observing it's effects. If you could see knowledge, and you could see it's absence, then you would be in a much better position to set up the knowledge transfers that need to happen. You could say "Look, Susie needs some Red knowledge, Peter has lots of Red knowledge, let's introduce Peter to Susie". But because knowledge is invisible you can't see what Susie needs or Peter has, unless you ask them.

Here are two easy ways to make Knowledge visible, and to set up Knowledge Transfer.


Seekers is a simple exercise, suitable for groups of 40 or 50 or more, and runs during the breaks or over lunch. It requires blank name badges, so either buy a supply of badges, or if you are in a badged event, ask people to turn their badges to the blank side. Ask them to write on the blank badge, in large clear letters, a question to which they would like an answer. It can be a work question, or a home-life question. Make sure it's a practical question! It should be "How do I plan a themed birthday party for my 5-year old" rather than "Is there a God?" Do this in the morning, then during the breaks and lunch, if people see a question they can help answer - either giving good advice, or pointing people to a source of advice - then they go and introduce themselves and offer help. After the afternoon break, ask for a show of hands for "Who has received an answer?". You should see between a third and half the people raise their hands. You can then lead a discussion on motivation (what motivated people to help? what would motivate you to ask questions at work?), on the power of Asking as a driver for knowledge transfer, on "how we can make our questions visible to others as part of our work", and on KM approaches such as community forums and peer assist.

Knowledge Market

A Knowledge Market is a meeting to match up people who need learning, with people who can provide their learning. It is a way of connecting people to stimulate knowledge, make new connections, and identify new collaborative relationships, it is for connecting those who have problems with those that can potentially solve the problem in a very simple way. Knowledge Markets are commonly used within Communities of Practice.

At a Knowledge Market, you ask people to write (on post-it notes, or (better) on a large poster) two or three "Knowledge Offers", and two or three "Knowledge Needs". These should be real business issues - either an issue for which they have found a solution (a knowledge offer), or a business issue which they are currently facing, where they need access to more knowledge to help them make the correct decision.  Then you display these posters or notes, and ask people to walk around and identify

  1. A knowledge need they think they can help with
  2. A knowledge offer which they want to hear more about, because it will help solve a business issue for them.

Once these "matches" have been identified, then you set up follow-on conversations (either at the same event, or later) to transfer the knowledge.

Both of these methods make Knowledge, and its need, temporarily visible, allowing matches to be made between Knowledge Suppliers and Knowledge Customers. To allow this to happen on a long-term continuous basis, you will need to introduce a KM Framework including elements such as lesson-learning and communities of practice.

1 comment:

Charlie Davidson said...
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