Sep 1, 2006

The demand for KM

I made the point on's KM message board
and am making the point again.

"Let's go back to the mid and late 90s, when the words "KM" started becoming
buzzwords from academic discussions, and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of
the pie.

What drove this demand?

I believe it was the belief propelled by the mental model of "plough back".

Let me extrapolate.

Earlier, when human knowledge and expertise was driving the growth of organizations, there was a system a work that was knocking down typical organizational structures and power systems. People who had knowledge and expertise could and did demand price based on the value they could add to the organization. And if one firm did not, they walked out of the door
carrying their experience and expertise between their ears.

Then suddenly came this mantra called "Knowledge Management" which the CEOs saw as an opportunity to hark back to the older system. They said "Ah! This is what we want. Let the people go..but we can keep their disembodied knowledge" And the consultants saw this opportunity and propelled this grand misconception.

However, now the consultants turn to him and say "Sorry , to do KM, you got to keep investing in and developing people" and the CEO is stunned...isn't that the job of his Training Manager ? But doesn't that means "giving" his people more knowledge? But,wasn't the promise of KM that it would "take" the knowledge from his people and be free from their whimsical demands...?

And so, the mental model of a "taker" that drives the CEO keeps him very suspicious of fads like Knowledge Management that promised (in his understanding) one thing and now are delivering another...

Thoughts welcome.

Well, that was then...after those days, have ruminated on it and come to the conclusion that KM will not do.

The road has to lead to Knowledge Creation, and systems that evoke the human imagination, not exploit them....and to do so, KM will need to drop the mental model of management and take on the role of creation and facilitation.

In effect, it will no longer be enough to ask :

1. Where does this Knowledge reside?
or even,
2. Who knows that?
(these are the questions that IT and Knowledge Repositories had an answer to)

Increasingly we will move to answering questions that are on the lines of:

1. How do we leverage what we know to create bigger, better, faster.....?
2. How do we work with each other across boundaries, breaking out of our silos, learning from each other, confronting each other openly and adding value to ourselves as people and to the organizations we work with?

So here are my mantras for the death of KM ....long live KC (read the outline of the book
by Nonaka, Ichijo and Von Krogh Enabling Knowledge Creation )

1. The mental models will move from "KM Structures and Processes" to "Knowledge Ecologies"
2. From contribution we'll move to collaboration
3. From repositories and databases we'll move to 'places' or 'contexts'
4. From internal to organizations, knowledge sharing will become more inter-organizational
5. From teams we'll move to communities
6. From the IT department knowledge will take its place amongst people who run the business, and learning process owners will lose another opportunity to influence at a strategic level.
7. Benefits of knowledge sharing will start to move from "cost savings" to "value additions" and "new value"
8. A synergy will emerge between strategic thought that looks at knowledge creation , complexity theory that views knowledge as a complex human process, sensemaking that looks at what humans create in their mind and why and creation of something out of seemingly nothing. :-)

On that note, I'll sign off...

Some great sites to visit are : KM (a compilation of great links!!)
KM Thoughts (maintained by, Denham Grey, a person whose thoughts almost mirror mine :-) and the fact that he adds his humongous perspective from IT and education to it, makes the whole thing a great deal richer !!)