Tuesday 14 January 2020

Tom Davenport on why improved access to knowledge can be a "red herring"

One of my favourite common-sense KM articles of all time is Tom Davenport's 1997 article on the 7 deadly syndromes of Knowledge Management - still as relevant today as it ever was. 

Dating from the earliest days of KM, Tom points out seven Knowledge management pitfalls, all of which still plague Knowledge Management implementations today.

Here is what he says about people who think KM is all about "better access to Knowledge"

 Restricted Access 
"We're trying to create better access to our knowledge." 
"Red lights flash before my eyes, sirens go off in my head, my blood pressure skyrockets. Access is oversold, overblown, overdone. Do you really think the reason no one ever looked at the market research reports was because they had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to them? That the sales force didn't consult white papers on product performance because they had to make a phone call to get a copy? OK, I admit that it's amazing how lazy we all can be and that easy access to knowledge sources does increase the likelihood that they will be consulted. But it's just the first step and often the easiest one.  
"The next time someone on your project team uses the A-word, speak up with some substitutes. How about "attention"-as in how do we get anybody to pay any of it to what we're doing? How about "appetite"-is anyone really hungry for our knowledge? Why not "affiliation"-a bit of a circumlocution, but how can we get people to feel loyal and trusting enough to share their knowledge with co-workers?" 

Tom's differentiation of "Access and "Appetite" is similar to our "Knowledge Supply and Demand". There's no point in having the former, if you don't have the latter. So instead of starting with Access, try looking at Knowledge flow from the Pull end of the cycle, developing the behaviors of asking, and favouring seeking above sharing.

If there is no appetite for knowledge, then the best access in the world will make no difference. Start by developing the appetite, then access can follow.

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