During the course of yesterday, and while trying to catch up with my daily RSS newsfeeds, I bumped into a weblog post from Ross Mayfield (CEO and co-founder of SocialText) that caught my attention right away and which would clearly indicate to me how we may not have learned from our past recent mistakes in the Knowledge Management world. The weblog post itself is titled Manage Knowledgement (MK) and it comes to talk about the fact that with the rise of social software, like weblogs and wikis, knowledge workers would be now more keen on sharing what they know with others ignoring completely all of the other traditional methods for knowledge sharing that may have been running for a number of years.
And while I do agree with that statement to some extent, that is actually one of the main reasons why there is such a hype going around at the moment with the so-called Web 2.0 and all of the social software available there in the context of Knowledge Management and collaboration, I also strongly believe that we should not forget how the traditional KM has been working all along. I mean, if throughout all these years there has been an extra focus on explicit knowledge exchange and we didn’t think it was the best of options available, I doubt things would improve that much if we shift that focus towards tacit knowledge alone. That would be falling under the same trap as before but with a different name.
What we need to ensure is that if we would want KM to survive in the 21st century there surely needs to be a balance, a balance between the tacit knowledge and the explicit knowledge exchange, so that we would be able to get the best out of both of them. Certainly weblogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking and so forth are very good at capturing that initial tacit knowledge from knowledge workers, however, we need to also think further and ensure that same tacit knowledge is then moved into the area of explicit knowledge exchange so that it can be reused at some point in time. To me, tacit knowledge is just the first step towards achieving that best of breed Intellectual Capital (i.e. Explicit knowledge) that would be reused in whatever the circumstances to help improve whatever business.
It would be through those wikis and weblogs that, for instance, every single business should be tapping into in order to capture those bits and pieces that are ready to go and be shared with a larger audience in a much more sophisticated repository. Again, we seem to be falling into the same trap as before but in a different disguise. Once again, the focus seems to be falling under the umbrella of social tools available out there, when in reality the focus should be on the people. The ones who have got the opportunity to harvest both the tacit and explicit knowledge and collaborate with others at the same time. That is where the focus should be, folks, not on just using all these cool tools thinking that they will solve the problem. They will not. The hype will go away and we would still have got the people to handle whatever the KM strategy they may have in place.
That is why, a good balance between both tacit and explicit knowledge is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have to survive if we would want companies to transition successfully from a labour-based model to an asset / knowledge based one. So let’s just focus on the next big challenge: how do we facilitate knowledge workers to integrate both their tacit and explicit knowledge into the best KM and collaboration tool suite out there? That is where the challenge is, folks, and although social software can certainly help out it will not be the final solution. Not now, not any time soon. Look for the balance ! That is where the key to the whole thing is!