Thoughts from KM AsiaPosted: November 27, 2009
Actually i wasnt there, but Madanmohan Rao has written a wonderful piece about the messages coming out of there. Some of the things which i read are quite interesting mainly because they seem to address some of the basic issues that are coming along the KM space.
Dave Snowden, i think, has got it spot on with the two problems he says knowledge managers are facing. One of the major issues which knowledge managers are coming up with is the idea of silos. And what i think is that as long as KM works with these silos it seems to be going ok but when KM tries to connect people across silos, there seems to be the problem coming up. In fact, this is probably an issue which a lot of management tools have tried to resolve, but i think that KM has a better handle on this because of the universal nature of knowledge, and the basic idea that more often than not, knowledge spans these silos and there is a need within organizations to have knowledge shared across silos. ERP vendors over more than a decade have been instrumental in looking across silos and managing information flows across business processes rather than silos, but in the process what has happened is that one kind of silo has replaced another. Any way you look at it, silos are there, and in all probability, would remain. Maybe this links to the idea of strong and weak links with silos being created largely around the core (this is something i wrote about recently). The other aspect which Madan writes about, that of creating a knowledge-sharing culture is probably related to the idea of silos. Its not that knowledge-sharing doesnt happen. The problem which knowledge managers are trying to address is how to make this knowledge-sharing more pervasive so that it can happen across the organization.
Another aspect which Madan mentions, Dave’s advice, is to look at knowledge flows instead of knowledge stocks. This is an important point which at times gets missed. Maybe this comes from the content-centric view of KM. But the point is that knowledge, static, and at a point is valuable only at that point, and atrophies into habit over a period of time. The issue with this is that while the external scenarios may change, the knowledge-to-habit aspect leads people to the idea that their reactions to changed scenarios can be the same. Add to this the fact that knowledge has applicability which is far more global than was previously thought, and you get a scenario that unless knowledge flows, there is a probability that it may actually not be as valuable as it is thought to be.
There is also the aspect of human knowledge being messy, but more about that later.