Sunday, July 25, 2010

Evolving Paradigms in Knowledge Management

I came across this brief video on the Harvard Business Review the other day on how knowledge management is moving away from the repository as goal.

Here's the transcript of the video:
One of the interesting ways of capturing the problems with traditional knowledge management is it came at knowledge from a stocks viewpoint, a stocks of knowledge. The problem is, we have knowledge, it's distributed and dispersed throughout the organization. How do we capture it and make it available to others?

Certainly a big challenge, I don't want to diminish that as a value, but I think what people found as they tried to implement the various systems and methodologies to do that is there wasn't really a lot of motivation for people to invest the time and effort to develop and define those stocks and make them available as part of a broader repository.

This kind of approach really shifts the attention from stocks of knowledge, what we know today, to defining and developing new knowledge, addressing critical performance objectives that the company, the firm, has in front of it, so that you're driving and not by learning in the abstract, but because there is a real performance challenge in front of us; how do we identify the right people, bring them together, create the environments, and by the way; because of the digital platforms that we have now, as we create these environments, we are capturing, as a byproduct, the knowledge that's created as part of that environment. So, it becomes available to others but it is not the primary focus. It's a byproduct.

Back in the day when I was an MBA student studying knowledge management, one of the goals was a repository of knowledge. The major question was how does one capture what people in the organization know and make it available to others in the organization so all can benefit. So if I came across some fix for a persistent bug on company desktops, how can I share what I know so that Peter, Paul and Mary can benefit from my stroke of genius?

There are of course hurdles here - why would I (or any employee for that matter) spend their extra time in a KM system to document their knowledge - documentation is a drag (let's be honest) and if you're not accustomed to doing it then it seems like something that takes you out of your workflow.

I agree to some extent with this new paradigm of capturing knowledge as we collaborate with others on projects - this certain takes care of new knowledge created, as well as older undocumented knowledge that surfaces to help with this collaboration - however I still think that there is a valid reason of having a knowledge repository. Look at wikipedia - it IS a knowledge repository - we aren't necessarily developing new knowledge, we're just putting the pieces of the puzzle together. People still flock to it to GET information and there are people who go to it to GIVE information.  What motivates these people to GIVE?  This is what we need to look at in our organizations and foster such a giving environment.
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