Friday 13 December 2019

Do you always need content as part of KM?

There are 3 unusual cases where content is not important to KM, but they are rare!

Image from wikimedia commons
This blog has argued that content is as important as conversation in KM, and that content beats memory for long-term preservation of knowledge, and that creation of knowledge content (which is different from other types of content) helps tackle the illusion of memory.

There are few if any organisations which attempt to manage KM without the use of content, so under-use of content is not a bias to be corrected in the same manner as under-use of conversation (see yesterday's post). However the automatic use of content in every case may also be inappropriate.

Under what circumstances can you run KM without creating content? Here are 3 examples

 1. Content-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the use of the knowledge is very short term and local. 

Take the example of a project team conducting a complex task, identifying their learning through regular After Action reviews. There will be much knowledge than is discussed and exchanged through this mechanism, which can be immediately fed back into the way the team works, without ever having to be written down. Because the knowledge will be used by the same team and nobody else, and in the very short term, it has no need of being recorded.

2. Content-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the context of the knowledge is rapidly changing.
 Take the example of a situation which is changing day by day. The people involved, in their teams or communities, should be talking regularly, but any captured knowledge will be out of date as soon as it is written. Here knowledge transfer is best done through communication and conversation. There is no point in documenting best practice where the nature of "best" changes on a daily basis. 
3. Content-free knowledge transfer is perfectly acceptable when the knowledge is impossible to document. 

Here we are talking about "Deep Smarts," Familiarity Knowledge", or knowledge of physical activity. This is knowledge that is very hard or impossible to write down. Knowledge of "how to dance" has be be guided and mentored; it cannot be codified. Here knowledge transfer is accomplished by coaching and guiding, or through what Dorothy Leonard calls "guided experience". Trying to transfer such knowledge through content is a waste of time. 

However in every other case, other than the three exceptions above, your Knowledge Management framework needs to focus on Content as well as Conversation.

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