Tuesday 7 January 2014

Risks and advantages of Just In Time Knowledge

Just In Time, 5/365 by Finstr
Just In Time, 5/365, a photo by Finstr on Flickr.
An interesting blog post here (thanks Barbara Fillip for the notification) got me thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of Just In Time Knowledge.

I am a believer in Just In Time Knowledge.

I believe that people are not receptive to knowledge, until they actually need it.

I believe that knowledge transfer works far more effectively through Pull (where people seek for knowledge when they need it) than Push (where people send out knowledge in the hope that someone might need it).

However the article (which is talking about Just In Time Information, rather than Knowledge, but the principles are the same) points out a risk. The risk is that when we are most in need of a decision, we are least discerning about the quality of the knowledge we receive, and the risk is that we pick up on what is new and what is different and what is current, and miss out on what is old and what is established.

You can see this most clearly when it comes to seeking knowledge from Communities of Practice. If the CoP has no "long term memory" (in the form of community knowledge bases, or community "established wisdom"), then the answers to any query come from the short-term knowledge of the CoP. They come from what is at the top of people's awareness, namely the things that have happened the most recently.

As the article says, "The worst time to look for information is when we need it to make a decision. When we do that we’re more likely to see what’s unique and miss the historical context. We’re also more likely to be biased by what is available".

The human brain, as we have pointed out many times on this blog, is not the ideal storage medium for knowledge. Challenges such as the illusion of memory, the illusion of confidence, the illusion of knowledge, the confirmation bias, the triumph of optimism over experience, all make the unsupported human memory unreliable.

Once we lose the long term written memory, and start relying on short term memory, we enter the world of Repeat Mistakes, where changes made to fix things, are unmade in future as the long term memory fades, as old staff move on, and as new people come in with bright ideas and no historical context.  So people change things, only to find that old problems re-emerge.

So what does this mean for Just In Time knowledge?

It means that the principle of driving Knowledge Sharing by Pull is fine, but that Organisations and Communities of Practice need to focus on long-term organisational memory as well as short-term organisational memory.

It means that Communities of Practice can hold knowledge not just in their collective brains and consciousness, but in their collective history and collective Experience Base.

It means that we need to address both Connect and Collect - Connecting People and Collecting Knowledge - in order to give secure decision support to the Just In Time requests.

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