Sep 13, 2005

Knowledge Creation - KM is passe

Ok, I didn't say that, Nonaka did, and that was a long time ago. But something else struck me today. Have patience whileI try to narrate it.

When one talks of managing knowledge one usually talks about the Knowledge strategy as dependent on the business of the firm. The focus of Nitin Nohria's article in the HBR "What's your strategy for Managing Knowledge?", the kind of strategy is determined by the business model of the firm. Do you use repeatable solutions, not too customized? Then a IT solution like a database and some other bells and whistles would suffice.

Does your firm give customized solutions for all clients? Then you should link the "knowers" in the firm, as the knowledge is too different to be of much use when stored in databases.

And then it struck me.

The focus of knowledge management would also then depend on the level of the employee using the knowledge and the function using that knowledge. For example in Nohria's example the consultancy firm's competitive knowledge would be diverse and therefore linking partners would make more sense. However, this same firm would be taking a lot different approach to recruitment, where the application of the solution (i.e. selection!) would be a lot more of a cookie-cutter. Would a KM solution help this firm's staffing team more than an ATS? I believe it would. Hold on a moment, an ATS system is actually a great KM system, and if more functionalities were added could be an 'ideal' KM system!

Which brings me to the next level.

Even Nohria's two appoaches to manage knowledge would not take firms up the value chain to be 'game-changers'. In essence they are approaches mired in the old-school approach at 'operational excellence'. KM needs to drop the "management" and embrace "creation" to rise up the value added ladder. To do that, Knowledge facilitators need to challenge the status quo and goad people to be more forward thinking than "what had worked in the past"....

Knowledge = Past
Learning is the key to creation

The basis for learning is to stop seeing Knowledge as a static process but a churn of mindsets, identities and shared image of what our work means for us today and what it might mean for us tomorrow.

This post is inspired by Denham's thoughts on Knowledge creation.