Wednesday 1 October 2014

What do practitioners understand "Knowledge Management" to include?

What do companies around the world understand by "Knowledge Management", and what are their KM strategies?  This was another area we wanted to explore in our 2014 global survey of Knowledge Management.

One of the questions therefore covered the topic of strategic focus areas for KM, and we asked the participants to prioritise, from a list of 11 potential approaches, the most important to them.

The pie chart here shows the frequency of each of these options as "first choice"

The remaining options all received small percentages of the votes.

Some of our respondents pointed out that there were maybe 3 or 4 strategic options on the list with more or less equal priority - Communities of Practice plus Learning from Experience was the most common combination.

The choice of primary strategy varied to some extent with the industry - 
  • "Connecting people" was most popular in Aid & development, Manufacturing, Construction, Financial services and Professional services
  • "Learning from Experience" was most common in Oil and Gas and in Telecoms
  • "Development of best practice" was the preferred focus for the military
  • "Better access to documents" was the area prioritised by the legal firms, and the public sector

What does this mean?

I think we can take the results of this question and assert that it shows what the world of KM practitioners understands by the term Knowledge Management.

Knowledge Management seems to be recognised as a combination of Connecting People, Learning from Experience, provision of access to documents, retention of knowledge, creation of best practices, and innovation.

Individual industries favour one of these six over the others, but in combination they seem to pretty much map out the mainstream field of KM as it is currently understood.


Bruno Winck, Kneaver said...

I'm surprised that "Access' External Knowledge and Intelligence" rates so low. In the time of social learning, massive quantity of research being available online, companies still relies on their own experience and value internal knowledge more than outside Knowledge.

Primary strategy per industry is almost caricatural. Military likes rules, Legal likes documents.

I have the impression that the study reveals more by what is hollow. What would have been the results 10 years ago and didn't change.

Nick Milton said...

Thanks Bruno.

The survey results are what they are, and obviously interpretation is needed. The "external knowledge and intelligence" was, on average, 9th in the list of priorities - i.e. not totally ignored, but by no means the most important component for the people who responded. Whether this is the "correct" priority or not, is not for me to say. It's highest rating came from the respondents from legal firms, if that helps.

Primary strategy per industry could be seen as a caricature, or it could be related to the type of knowledge needed and to the organisational context. Aid agencies and consulting firms work in multiple parallel projects around the world doing the same sort of thing, and networking is critical. Oil and Gas complete a series of huge, high profile and expensive projects, and for them, learning from experience is critical. The Military generally embark on one major enterprise at a time, and for the frontline soldier "knowledge of what to do in any given circumstance" is the most important thing. Lawyers need to know the law, and they need to know precedent. Unlike soldiers in the heat of battle, they can take the time to research, and research for a lawyer means finding the correct regulations and precedent. Their key knowledge is not knowledge of activity but knowledge of legal product. There is a reason why these different industries have different KM priorities, and I suggest that the reason is the different contexts in which they operate.

I am afraid we do not have a study from 10 years ago to compare this result with. I would like to run this survey on a regular basis, and if we do, then we can see if any of this changes over time.

Bruno Winck, Kneaver said...

I get your point Nick.As you say it's a study not prospective. Still as professionals don't you think we should already have an opinion on the next move. For example after 3 wars in Irak "Lessons Learned" should be high in the miltary agenda including on the political difficulties of rebuilding countries and possiblly lead to less but better practices. Considering the recents high profile trials costing billions of dollars to banks it seems to me that increasing external intelligence instead (outside in) of looking inside out would have helped to legal department realize that their customers were at risk.

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