Friday 7 June 2013

Finding Knowledge better, or finding better Knowledge?

Fast, faster, faster! There are two ways in which Knowledge Management can add value to an organisation, and we can look at them in this way
  1. Finding Knowledge Better
  2. Finding Better Knowledge
The first approach focuses on better content management, tagging, taxonomy, portal structure, effective search, semantic search, RSS and so on. The intent is "documented knowledge at your fingertips", and the result is faster access to documents and documented knowledge.

The second approach focuses on learning from experience, on capturing lessons, on connecting people into networks and communities of practice, on collaboration, and on synthesising knowledge into current "best" practices. The intent is to create learning loops and channels in the organisation, for improvement of practice.

The value of the first approach is in saving people time in searching for relevant material. The value of this comes through improved efficiency. 

The value of the second approach is in delivering better decisions, avoiding risks, and delivering better results. The value comes through improved effectiveness.

The value of the second approach, I would estimate, is at least an order of magnitude greater than the first; maybe 2 orders of magnitude. I do not have the statistics to test this estimate. 

However, this is not an "Either/Or" situation, this is a "Both/And".

Both of these approaches can be combined into one holistic approach, value can be added through both mechanisms, and, as the quotation below (from Martine Hass in Does Knowledge Sharing Deliver on Its Promises?) shows, both have their time and place.

"We find that using codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task, but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients, whereas in contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signalled competence, but did not save time," Haas says. 
"This is interesting because managers often believe that capturing and sharing knowledge via document databases can substitute for getting personal advice, and that sharing advice through personal networks can save time. But our findings dispute the claim that different types of knowledge are substitutes for each other. Instead, we show that appropriately matching the type of knowledge used to the requirements of the task at hand -- quality, signaling or speed -- is critical if a firm's knowledge capabilities are to translate into improved performance of its projects."

The other interesting message from Martine's text is -

Good knowledge is rarely fast, fast knowledge is rarely good.

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