Watching this video on YouTube about KM in organizations, by Don Cohen, and it gave me some good inspirations even though there is nothing new about what he said.
In the themes of KM in organizations, we emphasize the importance among collaboration, communication, trust, and sharing of expertise.
These following are what inspired me about KM in real life:
In a way, practice of KM is the injection of a sharing and collaboration culture in an organization. There are some conditions for effective knowledge transfer, and they are:
Trust - it is about the trust to communicate with free flow of ideas
Respect - either for superiors and subordinates
The process, or the journey is what necessary to focus, not only on the actual knowledge itself. In the video, there was an example about a project in NASA which was eventually cancelled, but were recognized as one most fruitful learning. This tells us that it is the journey that matters, not the results.
When people think about KM, they refer to a knowledge repository. However, knowledge repository is actually not really knowledge. It is information, the I in D-I-K-W. What should be of higher interest about KM is, experience, wisdom, understanding, insights on top of information. Information is know-what, and those of higher interests and values is know-how. Know-how is more of practice where how people can learn from each other, the deeper skills of how people can learn about practice, about how to apply, and how to solve problems. These are the kind of knowledge which is difficult to put in a document. So it is more of focus on people, practices and values.
Having said that, it does not mean that technology (such as knowledge repository) is not important, which is still a good and essential tools. It is that the focus and emphasis shouldn't be put entirely on technology. Technology can be seen as the tools, the vehicles, or the assistance of the human issues or human behavior. It still helps to bridge the people together even when they're not meeting each other at the same time.
The speaker mentioned that KM should include: face-to-face meetings, after-action-reviews, community of practice, co-location, mentoring, workspace design, electronic repository and virtual spaces. All these are the aspects of KM. According to a survey he has made with some experienced KM practitioners, the share of money or attention contributing to the success of KM projects are:
25% to technology
75% to process, organization, practice & culture
It is important to involve the working people in KM projects, because
The processes are normally very context dependent. Only those people involved in the work knows what it is about.
By involving people in a decision making process, you make them want to do the work
Support from top management is important because:
A lot of effective knowledge sharing needs to cross boundaries between groups, departments and organizations, and only senior people generally has the authority and ability to effectively say let's work together and do it.
People's time are limited, unless your bosses thinking is of value for you to share what you know to other people, and take time to learn from other people
There had always been debates about KM whether it is
Collect: the aim to collect a lot of valuable materials and put it some place where people can find it; or
Connect: the aim to connect people with each other.
In the experience of the speaker, the best knowledge system absolutely combines these 2 functions.
Unfinished work sharing, according to the speaker, is surprisingly important. Knowledge sharing is an evolving process. Instead of making standards and requirements, perhaps it is better to just follow or adapt to people's behavior to make it successful.
About measurement of the value of knowledge, or the return-on-investment, there had been a lot of arguments and trials. According to the speaker, he questioned about the need to measure. In his opinion, when senior management consider that knowledge is important, they don't demand return on investment or mathematical proof of value. A quote by the VP of Oracle in support of knowledge programs, who mentioned "you don't tell whether a tree is growing by pulling it out the ground and looking at the root every six months".
It is important to focus knowledge exchange effort on something that matters. It is relevancy. The questions we should bear in mind are:
what knowledge we need to solve the problem
what knowledge we need to do the work that we know are going to have for the next 5, 10 years. At that point, we can do a gap analysis, and that's the indication of what knowledge we'll need
People are much readier to help each other, to share what they know, to spend time to document important things if they feel have have a mission that really matters. The best motivation is the work itself, both the interest of the work, and a sense of purpose or meaning.
Therefore in my own words, the job of KM in an organization is how to build the culture, the behavior, the spirit and the atmosphere in a way that:
The learning, sharing and collaboration becomes the culture of the organization.
In order that this becomes the culture, it is also important that all the staff share the same trust or basic belief, and they are willing to support and continue in the same way, same behavior, or same practice. That ties to the value systems of the organization and their people, and if people share the same value, they will follow and sustainability will not be a problem anymore.
It is probably necessary to have some fore-running people who are willing to take the lead, to become an behavoral example of the culture. They lead by example, by actions. They become the champions, and by nature, these are natural leaders. It is leadership.
For KM to work in organization, it's good to look at the work and the business, what is going to change in the next 5 to 10 years. That defines what knowledge we don't have today, and what we're going to need. It requires time to take up new knowledge and learning. It is not easy for a short-term fix. So KM in organization is also tightly tied with the company business strategy, which project the requirement into the future. In another terms, it is the future value we are looking at, which justify for the investment of KM.
One way of looking at KM, it is an art of paying attention to human behavior, and react accordingly to facilitate knowledge transfer, and achieve a win-win situation where everybody feel happy.