Friday 21 September 2018

Why knowledge re-use is such a barrier in KM

Unless knowledge is re-used, KM adds no value. Why is this final step so hard, and what can we do about it?

Roger by ZapTheDingbat, on Flickr
I was having a great conversation with a Knowledge Manager recently, who was grappling with the final, and most difficult, step in the Knowledge Transfer process, the step of knowledge re-use (what Nonaka and Takeuchi call the Internalisation step).

She had a great system of collecting knowledge, and a great system for synthesising knowledge, and when she showed the knowledge to the users they said "Wow, great, that's very useful", but when she asked them later whether they had actually used the knowledge, they said No.

We had a look at the reasons behind this. There were several blockers -

  • The knowledge was not to hand when they needed it - they needed to go look for it
  • They had no time to go looking for the knowledge
  • They may not trust the provenance of the knowledge
  • The knowledge did not solve an immediate pain, but was more of a long term benefit (see blog post on why some ideas spread and others don't). 
  • They could get away with doing things the way they had always done, even though the new way was better.
If we want knowledge workers to re-use knowledge, then 
  1. The knowledge should be available to them (or better - presented to them) at the point and time of need
  2. Ideally the knowledge should be built into process and procedure, and this procedural guidance should be available at the point and time of need
  3. There should be a culture of checking the procedures, just as an airline pilot goes through their checklist before take-off
  4. The knowledge should be usable
  5. They should be able to see a clear link between their experience and learning (and the learning of others like them) and the creation of the new knowledge.  
  6. They need to be assured, and need to believe, that the new knowledge or the updated procedure is the best available. 
  7. They should be clear that their peers, managers and stakeholders expect them to to use the knowledge
  8. there may need to be coaching or encouragement in he use of the new knowledge. The new knowledge should be built into training plans
  9. Then the knowledge worker's manager may need to check whether the new knowledge was used
  10. Failure of a task through not following the current procedures (and therefore the most up to date knowledge) should be treated as a serious breach.

Knowledge re-use is far harder than just giving people access to a site or a document. It's tricky, it's hard work, and it is the step where many KM programs fall.

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