Knowledge management in the enterprise ... what the hell IS IT? Part 1

Knowledge Management ... KM ... what the hell does it mean to an organisation, a staff member or anyone else that stumbles across the name.

As you might know I am currently titled (at work) Knowledge Management Specialist which, when I started, had the most popular question of, "Huh? What DO you do?" And that's from the people within my own IT area and doesn't even approach the confused faces from all my friends and family.

Of course, most people within IT/ICT are based around all things computers be it hooking them into some sort of hole in the wall, installing new fancy widgets for us to ponder, ensuring databases (and the like) are running all the way to helping people using the plethora of applications available, training them in the dark magic of SAP and holding their hands as they try and actually get some useful information out of the blessed things.

These activites are all based around the piece of equipment plonked on your desk that you use to read this blog and send emails to your mates.

Knowledge Management (KM) isn't based around that bit of equipment. It is based around people.

And because KM has a different slant on the world from 'geeks' it is often confusing as to what it's all about. BTW: 'geeks' is a term I use with affection and a lot of love, I used to be one (the geek within me is strong Obi Wan).

So, here's my view on the KM world:
  • Knowledge is fundamentally different to 'information' which ins't the same as 'data'
  • Knowledge sits inside people's heads and cannot be stuck into a computer
  • Knowledge collaboration is what I endeavour to promote and assist
  • Sharing of knowledge involves a whole stack of tools - computers, workspaces, networks of people, culture, leadership ...
And so, in a nutshell:
I assist and support organisations to meet their stated goals by providing and growing the relevant knowledge 'tools' that enable their people in making better decisions.

As KM 'tools' can be very broad (people, work space, computers, culture ...) I don't pretend to try and tackle them all, just as no GP is a specialist in every facet of human health. My passion lie in the following specific areas and toolset:
  • Connecting people
  • Enabling the widest possible sharing and collaboration around relevant information
  • Use of stories (narrative) as a basis of sharing knowledge
I also have a particular focus on the computer tool (that's the 'geek within me coming out) but the other tools (space, culture ...) can never be underestimated and I am constantly reflecting upon them - remember this is ALL about people and people/knowledge does't live in computers.

My favourite line is, "If we want to truly collaborate on 'x' then we let's get off our bums and go and talk with ...".

Part 1: Sharing with information
'sharing': using or enjoying something jointly with others

People love sharing stuff their passionate about ... most of the stuff we all work on at work doesn't come close to that and if it's in a computer we're probably even more likely to less passionate about it. For that reason sharing information at work on a regular and consistent

Sharing is, of course, one the platforms to true collaboration (see my definition of 'collaboration' on my KM Wiki) but can also be the hardest of the building blocks to put in place within an organisation. Common issues I face are:
  • Technically disparate storage - different systems, not in a computer, access control stops sharing ...
  • People feel that "knowledge is power"
  • Overload of information and so focus on "my stuff"
Some of the computer tools I advocate within organisations (all depends on circumstances) around sharing on information which enables knowledge sharing:
  • Findability incorporating excellent (pan-organisation) search capabilities and an understandable (pan-organisation) browse hierarchy
  • Open up access control - it's our information not mine
  • Blogs - "let's talk"
  • Forums - "let's discuss"
  • RSS/Atom feeds - "let me decide what I want"
  • Social tagging - "let me 'personalise' the path to information"

Part 2: Sharing without a computer ... it can be done!
Also, collaboration, what it truly means and how it is based on sharing and communication of information and knowledge.

part 3: Connecting people ... how, why and when

Part 4: Further talk around knowledge sharing using stories

See also: KM Wiki


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