Every now and then there is this blog post that, when reading through it, you can’t help but embark yourself on a wonderful trip down the memory lane on something that comes so close to your heart that you just keep nodding in agreement and content on how good and thorough it is in describing the state of things. In this case, Knowledge Management. And in this particular case the superb blog post put together by Nancy Dixon under the title "The Three Eras of Knowledge Management – Summary". Outstanding read, if you haven’t gotten through it just yet…
Yes, indeed, in that lengthy, but really worth reading altogether, article Nancy takes us all through a fascinating journey in describing incredibly well the various different stages that good old Knowledge Management has gone through over the last 15+ years, distinguishing three main eras of KM that I bet most knowledge workers out there could very well identify still going on in their own organisations.
If you are one of those knowledge workers interested in KM, or doing KM, this is one of those blog entries you should not miss out on! It is that good! (My good friend Harold Jarche‘s reference to it, amongst several other KM related readings, is another superb read on the topic to which I will come back at a later time to add further up…). Now, I am not going to rip off the article and spoil the read by quoting some of the various different elements. I would rather suggest you go ahead and spend a few minutes going through it. What I will share over here though would be the three headings that Nancy identifies as those 3 Eras of KM, so you can get an idea of what she is referring to on that article:
- "Leveraging Explicit Knowledge
- Leveraging Experiential Knowledge
- Leveraging Collective Knowledge"
I think it would also be quite nice to share over here the graphic that describes, pretty well, the history of KM over the last 15+ years I mentioned above already and which she has also shared over at her post. I bet once you go through it you would have a pretty good idea on what each of those KM stages has been like throughout the course of the years and, most importantly, where we seem to be heading. So here you have it:
After you have gone through it, I am sure you may have noticed the same KM trend that I saw right away. Funny enough it’s one that throughout the years it ends up highlighting the main key premises under which Knowledge Management was born a while ago in the first place. For those who still remember, I am referring to the famous pyramid of what constituted the basics of a successfully KM strategy: Tools, Processes and People.
Well, that trend highlights how we seem to be coming back to basics essentially. Back then, as you would be able to see, KM had a rather huge and significant focus on how organisations would capture successfully the explicit knowledge from knowledge workers. The emphasis was on the tools and technologies themselves and how businesses could capture most of that knowledge through rather cumbersome and inefficient processes (Nevermind the tools!) that surely helped turn off plenty of folks on their motivation to share across that knowledge.
Obviously, things didn’t work out all right, for the various reasons that Nancy highlights in her article, so we moved on. And we moved, better said, we shifted gears and placed the focus back to where I think it should have been from the very first beginning… Once again, on the people! On the knowledge workers themselves helping them facilitate that knowledge transfer. So that focus would no longer be on the technology, nor the tools, nor the (business) processes. Just the people! Right where it matters.
That’s probably where we are nowadays, at least, most organisations would probably identify themselves enjoying that second KM era. It surely highlights the interim stage of where we are now, which is that one of empowering knowledge workers to be much more in control of their knowledge flows, of how they collaborate and share their knowledge across, regardless of both the technology and the processes. What some folks have called Personal Knowledge Management / Knowledge Sharing (Whatever term you would prefer). Yes, I realise that PKM has been there for a long while now, but I think you would agree with me that with the availability and further flourishing from social software tools, it’s taking on a new purpose, a new meaning altogether…
And it looks like we are readying already for that next era of KM where we will change gears, once again, and move from that individual experience of knowledge sharing inside a group (i.e. teams, networks and communities) to a massive online group collaborative environment "that [will] bring with them greater organizational transparency and [that will] give rise to more diverse perspectives in the organizational conversation. The use of crowd sourcing, cognitive diversity, and predictive markets draw on a wider base of thinking, both internally and externally, that increases organizational innovation".
Exciting times, don’t you think? Now, the really fascinating thing from this trip down the memory lane though is that each and everyone of those KM eras don’t try to replace one another as the next best thing. At least, they shouldn’t! They could eventually work together in co-existence providing a much more balanced approach towards what perhaps managing knowledge should be all about in the first place: an organisational, individual AND group activity with multiple levels of engagement, but all of them with a single mission…
That one of helping businesses innovate faster becoming more agile through true open, public, transparent and co-creative knowledge sharing activities where knowledge workers would be collaborating efficiently and effectively with their customers and business partners regardless of the knowledge sharing, collaborative and social software tools in place. They will become what they have been all along: enablers. Just that. So eventually we would need to always acknowledge, and embrace fully, where the focus and emphasis should remain for those knowledge sharing and collaborative activities: the people!
Hopefully, this long journey has helped us learned along the way on what worked, and what didn’t; move on trying to avoid making the same mistakes once again. Nancy has very nicely shown us the way of what lies ahead and I do hope you folks out there reading this piece would take on a new mission, in case you may not have gotten started already: helping your business understand why conversations are, after all, important, if not essential, to succeed in the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century.
Tags: Nancy Dixon, KM, Knowledge Management, Knowledge Sharing, Learning and Knowledge, Organisations, Businesses, Technology, Tools, People, Processes, KM Eras, KM History, Harold Jarche, Explicit Knowledge, Tacit Knowledge, Experiential Knowledge, Collective Knowledge, KM Evolution, Personal Knowledge Management, PKM, Personal Knowledge Sharing, PKS, Balance, Knowledge Transfer, Innovation, Co-Creation, Knowledge, Knowledge Economy, Enablers, Enterprise 2.0, Social Software, Social Networking, Social Computing, Social Media, Collaboration, Communities, Learning, Networking, Social Networks, Conversations, Dialogue, Communication, Connections, Relationships, Conversations