E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Knowledge Management and Learning – Separated at Birth? – Where They Really?

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  Yesterday Jay Cross created a brief but straight to the point follow up weblog post to one that I have recently shared myself over here around the subject of Knowledge Management and Informal Learning in which he was mentioning the interesting commentary on why KM and Learning belong to one another. Basically, on why there shouldn’t have been any separation between them at all from the very beginning like my initial weblog post seemed to have suggested:

"When the job environment changed but slowly, corporate learning involved acquiring the skills and know-how to do the job. Now corporate learning means keeping up with the new things you need to know to do the job. Maybe daily. The traditional barriers separating training, development, knowledge management, performance support, informal learning, mentoring, and knowing the latest news have become obstacles to performance. They are all one thing, for one purpose, and that’s performance."

He then wonders whether the "old distinctions serve a purpose in today’s world" or not and I just thought I would go ahead and create a weblog post on the subject, trying to add some more into the conversation.

I must say that while reading through his weblog entry I have felt very much identified with it and believe that he is just spot on! However, I believe that what he is talking about is just the way things are running at the moment in the space of KM and (Informal) Learning in the current workplace, because in the past things were just not like that.

As a starter, Knowledge Management was much more static and prone to not so many changes, even in the workplace. That command-and-control attitude was very much en vogue. It was all very much based on tools and processes that knowledge workers needed to follow and rarely was the focus on the people, which, if you ask me, is one of the basic key components from any good and worth while adopting Learning system.

That is right. At the time KM was having an extra emphasis on everything but the knowledge workers themselves; something that very few Learning systems would have in common. But Learning itself was not doing much better either.

Most of the Learning that took place up to not long ago was actually away from the workplace and in different classroom courses, without a context, with a learning programme that in most cases did not reflect the needs from the business, nor from the learners themselves and so forth. Mind you, I am not saying that classroom learning is that bad, on the contrary, it has got many many benefits that I will perhaps detail at some point in time. What I am saying that is pretty much like KM has been all along focused on one side of the spectrum (Explicit Knowledge exchange) so has learning just focusing on the formal learning aspects of the classroom as opposed to informal learning. Yes, indeed, pretty much like there is supposed to be a balance between tacit and explicit knowledge exchanges, for KM, the same would apply to learning: putting together the more traditional way of learning, through the classroom, with the informal learning happening while at the workplace.

So where have we gone from there nowadays? If all along we have seen how KM and Learning were not walking along hand in hand as we thought they were for whatever the reasons, their own reasons, what made them come together and convert into a single space nowadays where both Learning and Knowledge are two strong components that every knowledge worker has got a chance to get exposed to while getting the job done?

Well, if you ask me, I think that you probably know what I would be saying by now. Yes, indeed, Social Computing is what has made KM and Learning come together, move forward and become one. Main reason being the fact that with social computing we are witnessing what we may not have seen for quite some time now. And that is the fact that for the first time in a long while the focus is back at the people, both for KM and for Learning, which means that knowledge workers are much more in control of what they themselves know and want to share with others and also, at the same time, what they learn in the process and share with others, while performing and getting the job done.

Thus if you were thinking that KM is not very much related Learning, specially nowadays, I guess that you would have to think about it twice, because with the emergence of social software both of them are finally walking hand in hand and, much more importantly, at the same level. A level where the main group of beneficiaries are actually the ones who should have been all along: the knowledge workers themselves.

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