Knowledge Management

Everybody has something to give

Each individual features a valuable, unique combination of knowledge, skills, and talents.

The key to innovation and organizational efficiency is to allow the knowledge to find appropriate challenges. The knowledgeable should be able and motivated to contribute where and when appropriate. In facilitating this we can connect all these wonderful, unique brains and get the best out of their skills.

Enterprise Social Network: state-of-the-art collaboration

The above mentioned need to connect people is the rational behind initiatives that stimulate socialising wherever possible. Such can reach from coffee corners to information technology driven solutions. For a business the implementation of a secure Enterprise Social Network can be a game changer. Tooling is affordable. The biggest challenges are around processes and company culture. A user adoption strategy is essential. It shows individuals the power and benefit of knowledge sharing for themselves and the business.

The successful implementation of an Enterprise Social Network moves business communication and collaboration to a powerful state-of-the-art environment. It is the answer to doubtful initiatives that companies tried in the past years when tackling Knowledge Management, two of which I describe below.

Codifying Knowledge: pain without gain

A typical initiative of the 1990s: People should write down what they know so we can store it into a database. Then, whenever somebody needs to know about X we can search for X and get all relevant information as results.

To see what people do on that path just search the web for »knowledge transfer«, »knowledge codification«, or »knowledge base«. You will find a lot of best practices and recommendations. In my opinion they all share the following problems:

  1. Collecting, structuring, listing, indexing, and maintaining knowledge is expensive. Taking into consideration the efforts for keeping it up to date it costs a fortune. And even if each document contains date and author (do yours?) it is hard to tell if something is still relevant and up-to-date.
  2. For most of the captured knowledge the results are weak. Even in well defined and structured processes the results depend heavily on the discipline of contributors and on the quality of systems to find back what you are looking for.
  3. The biggest problem is that most tacit knowledge is completely left out. It is a characteristic of tacit knowledge that those who have it are often not aware of it, or at least have problems articulating it. The huge under-water portion of the knowledge iceberg remains invisible.

Expert Yellow Pages: biased and incomplete

Years ago Knowledge Management experts recommended to to reflect the knowledge areas of individuals in Yellow Pages and make those searchable. That way somebody looking for an expert in Y could search for that and find a list of people who have Y skills attributed to their name. The main weaknesses of this are:

  1. The quality of Yellow Pages depends on realistic self-assessment. Expert level knowledge does not always come with self-assuredness.
  2. When confronted with a problem, or when building ideas, we unleash an incredible amount of knowledge and experience that we were not aware of. Life is a continuous training programme, during which we unconsciously learn skills that are just sleeping and intuitively used when needed.

Conclusion

Connecting people boosts innovation capabilities and organizational efficiency of a business or society. It allows people to get involved and to contribute. An Enterprise Social Network can be the backbone of this, provided that it is implemented with processes, cultural change and user adoption strategy in mind.

© Hermann Faß, 2015