I am surprised. I am actually very surprised that not many people have been linking, nor commenting, thus far to what I feel is one of the best articles or weblog posts around the subject of Knowledge Management ever shared on the Internet. Of course, it had to come from the one and only: Dave Snowden. Get a cup of coffee (or tea), sit back and enjoy reading Whence goeth KM?. As I said, once of the best pieces ever written about the state of things with Knowledge Management. A trip down the memory lane, both for those of us who have been doing KM for a while but also very helpful for those who are just getting acquainted with it, on how Knowledge Management originated, where it went, why it failed, where we are now and what the future holds for us with it. Highly recommended, to say the least.
I know I could say a whole lot of stuff on what Dave has just put together, but I am not going to do that. I would encourage you to go and read the article and digest some of the stuff that he has put together for us. However, what I do want to do with this weblog post is actually share a couple of quotes that did sound very close home when I was actually going through the article. A couple of quotes that you would also resonate with you if you have been reading of this weblog for some time now, as they touch base on some of the stuff that I have been weblogging about all along. So here you go with them:
On What is special about KM?
"Then of course KM is people focused. Most of the previous movements were very mechanical. BPR (and now six stigma) were the exemplar of the mechanical approach. However all the other movements were top down and directional. A significant amount of KM activity was bottom up. Most of the early experiments in community were people just taking up and using the tools to make things happen. As the tools have got easier to use that bottom up approach has persisted and developed into social computing. KM also, gradually made people realise that Librarians know stuff about knowledge. A neglected profession started to gain some respect as KM grew and contributed hugely to its development and intellectual rigor. Also the diversity of the subject brought a lot more people into play. Most of the other movements attract followers, KM attracted original and often controversial thinkers." (Emphasis mine)
On So what went wrong?
"We got a little bit too obsessed with the technology. People read about Bob Buckman’s use of the technology and forgot all the work he did on getting people engaged across the company. Technology was an aspect of Buckman Labs, not the cause. The big consultancies entered the field and built KM systems for people who spent their entire life writing reports, and then tried to move those systems sideways into very different organisations. We then got into semantic technologies and a second wave of belief that AI could interpret and create knowledge. Those of us who made that mistake with Prologue back in the 80’s saw our mistakes repeated in the failed attempt to replace the pattern basis of human intelligence with rule based systems, or false assumptions about the nature of deep structures in language. KM became the domain of the technology companies – they funded its events after all." (Emphasis mine)
I guess that, after going through those quotes there would be very little that I would be adding. Dave has said it all and I am glad he has. A good reminder for us all to keep us focused on what we need to focus:
"1. Support effective decision making
2. Create the conditions for innovation"
Whether we now want to continue calling it Knowledge Management or not, that would be irrelevant. The important thing for us all, KMers and KM advocates alike, is to stick to those objectives and make things happen the way they were always meant to. That is just our job, folks, our passion!
Thanks ever so much, Dave, for re-igniting that passion once again !