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Knowledge Management Matters - Book Review

1 December 2020
Dr. Moria Levy

The book "Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners" is a compilation of articles initiated and edited by John & Joann Girard, an American couple where he is a knowledge management teacher, and she works as a consultant. Published in 2018, the book encompasses articles from various fields, some contributed by well-known opinion leaders in the knowledge management domain.


The book delves into the following topics:
  1. The development of knowledge management - three periods

  2. Future trends in knowledge management

  3. Preservation of past knowledge

  4. Knowledge extraction and capture

  5. Sharing existing knowledge

  6. Storytelling

  7. Knowledge Communities

  8. Knowledge Assets

  9. Knowledge development in the organization

  10. BIG DATA and Knowledge Management

  11. Creativity and innovation

  12. Strategic Knowledge Management Moves


 Readers who have engaged with the book have acquired knowledge and insights from its content and are likely to recommend it to others.

 

On the Timeline

The development of knowledge management - three periods

Nancy Dixon is undeniably one of the pioneers and most influential thinkers in knowledge management, having dedicated 25 years to exploring this domain. Drawing from her extensive experience, this article presents three main periods in the development of knowledge management:


Leveraging open knowledge (explicit)

This period involved sharing content through databases, including repositories of technical documentation, lessons learned, and organizational insights. However, the establishment of these reservoirs in the initial phase faced challenges. Organizations struggled to create workflows that effectively engaged people with the knowledge contained within the databases. Over time, it became difficult to locate the relevant content. Despite these obstacles, the underlying assumption that knowledge is a critical organizational asset has been held throughout the years.


Leveraging implicit/experiential knowledge

The focus shifted to knowledge sharing among individuals, addressing specific problems and inquiries within the organization. During this period, they emphasized the importance of engaging with covert organizational knowledge, such as case studies and less structured information. Methods like face-to-face meetings, peer learning, team reflection processes, knowledge conferences, retrospect processes, knowledge audits, and knowledge jams were implemented. The learning during this period emphasized that preliminary planning based on knowledge helps teams assess their needs and expectations from the task. Knowledge management proved most effective when carried out collaboratively, with the understanding that each employee has something valuable to contribute. It was also evident that shared knowledge grows and evolves when shared among a group. Reflection, for instance, played a vital role in solidifying the knowledge of individuals into collective knowledge. However, sharing knowledge requires time, resources, and sometimes face-to-face interactions.


Leveraging collaborative knowledge

This period saw an expansion in cross-team knowledge sharing, driven by the development of cognition and sense-making, a broader transition to teamwork, and increased decentralization. This phase was characterized by increased cross-team and cross-organizational sharing and more transparency and knowledge sharing with customers, suppliers, and partners through one-on-one interactions, group discussions, and crowd-sourcing. The essence of collaborative organizational knowledge evolved, encompassing not only the total knowledge in the organization but also emphasizing the importance of collaborative learning.


 It is important to note that transitioning from one period to the next did not lead to abandoning the previous levels or halting progress. Each period is built upon the previous ones, adding another layer to the overall knowledge management landscape. For example, advancements in database search capabilities are a testament to the continuous improvement of prior layers. Over the years and periods, the meaning of knowledge has evolved from static to dynamic, the understanding of those who possess knowledge has expanded to include diverse individuals both within and outside the organization, and the nature of knowledge "management" and "control" has also evolved.


Future Trends in Knowledge Management by Douglas Weidner

In this article, Weidner presents six projections for the future of knowledge management. These ideas are a mix of solutions and directions that he has observed and implemented, along with some wishful thinking. He believes these projections should evolve into overarching principles everyone involved in the field adopts.


The directions are as follows:

  1. Performance-enabled knowledge management: There will be a shift towards more process-oriented systems and solutions integrated into decision-making environments.

  2. Uniform methodologies for knowledge management: The field will move away from a wide array of work methods towards a more recognized, accepted, and standardized approach, similar to disciplines like project management. Emphasis will be placed on methodologies catering to knowledge management's human aspect (Section 6 below).

  3. Models for examining maturity: Organizations will have access to uniform and robust assessment tools for evaluating the maturity of their knowledge management practices.

  4. Development as a recognized profession: Knowledge management will be acknowledged as a distinct profession with a cohesive and structured curriculum in academia. This curriculum will consolidate existing initiatives, establishing knowledge management as a recognized and respected field. For example, Weidner outlines 10 study courses that constitute a knowledge management track at KM-Institute.

  5. Knowledge management as a driving force for organizations' future: Knowledge management will no longer be viewed solely as a solution; instead, it will be the primary guiding force for organizations striving to be efficient, effective, and sustainable, leading them towards a thriving future.

  6. An emphasis on the human side: Knowledge management will shift from technology-oriented approaches to a greater focus on people. This will involve motivating and empowering individuals and emphasizing personal knowledge management and the organizational aspect.


 By considering and embracing these future trends, the field of knowledge management can continue to evolve and thrive, catering to the dynamic needs of organizations and individuals alike.

 

Preservation of Past Knowledge and Extraction of Paul Corney's Knowledge

In the past, when employees remained in one career for extended periods, knowledge transfer took considerable time. However, with the increasing frequency of people changing organizations and roles, organizations must adapt their approach to knowledge preservation.


Recommendations:

  • Avoid investing in capturing knowledge simply because it is possible or presents an opportunity. Only capture knowledge that is genuinely needed, as knowledge that is not utilized may go to waste.

  • Focus on critical knowledge essential to the organization rather than trying to preserve every piece of knowledge. Identifying risks and assets is crucial in determining which knowledge is genuinely vital.

  • When employees leave, emphasize the legacy they can leave behind as a motivating and collaborative tool.

  • Make knowledge retention a regular process within the organization, even after activities and projects.

  • Incorporate formal and informal tools (less intimidating and more conducive to socialization) in the knowledge preservation process.

  • Utilize timelines to create a shared understanding and cover specific areas of knowledge that need to be preserved.

  • Recognize the value of storytelling in preserving knowledge and find effective ways to document and pass on these stories.

  • Employ graphic documentation, maps, and charts to gain insights into perceptions, behaviors, and profound wisdom.

  • Foster a culture that supports sharing experiences and knowledge, both within the organization and at the personal level, such as within family dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and document preservation.


 By adopting these recommendations, organizations can adapt to the changing landscape of knowledge preservation and ensure that valuable insights and experiences are effectively passed on to benefit future endeavors.

 

Sharing Existing Knowledge - Storytelling by Shawn Callahan

In most organizations, managers communicate rationally and logically, explaining decisions and reasons. However, storytelling is presented as a professional business tool that empowers managers as leaders and enhances the effectiveness of conveying messages.


So, what defines a business story? A business story encompasses:

  • The setting of place and time

  • A sequence of events, progress, and a plot

  • A business, organizational, or professional message


 A well-crafted story informs us of what happened and evokes related emotions and feelings.


 Good stories feature people who take action or engage in dialogue, sometimes even mentioning their names. It is also acceptable to share stories we have heard from others, and it is allowed to adapt them to our context. Stories from movies can also be quoted, and sharing personal experiences can be incredibly impactful.


 The power of good stories lies in demonstrating the narrator's character, showing genuine care, discussing meaningful aspects, incorporating valuable lessons, and inspiring the audience.


Several elements contribute to the success of a storytelling experience:

  • Engaged and attentive listening

  • Sufficient time to tell the story (avoid telling a story when time is limited)

  • Shared understanding between the narrator and the listener regarding the subject at hand

  • Utilizing tangible items and images and ideally adding dynamic elements to support the story

  • Trust between the narrator and the audience


 Compelling storytelling is a skill that can be developed and honed over time, and it is undoubtedly worth investing effort into mastering this valuable skill.

 

Stan Garfield on Knowledge Communities

In this chapter, Stan Garfield, an experienced knowledge management consultant who manages a thriving community of knowledge management professionals (SIKM), shares valuable insights into establishing and promoting knowledge communities. With his extensive expertise, he certainly practices what he preaches.


Critical Recommendations for Establishing and Promoting Knowledge Communities:

  1. Establish Independence: Maintain separation between organizational structure and knowledge communities within the organization.

  2. Understand the Differences: Distinguish between teams focused on mission advancement and topic-based communities designed for learning, problem-solving, and innovation. The nature of the interface in communities involves questions, answers, sharing, and brainstorming.

  3. Recognize the Essence: Acknowledge that a community is not just another virtual content area but a collection of people who communicate using processes and technology.

  4. Emphasize Volunteering: Base leadership and community membership on volunteering. Cultivate communities in which members actively wish to participate.

  5. Embrace Cross-Border Inclusivity: Strive to make communities accessible to anyone who believes they can benefit from participation, irrespective of functions, organizations, or geographical locations.

  6. Minimize Overlap: Ensure minimal redundancy between different communities. Before establishing a new neighborhood, it is recommended to have a Community Coordinating Committee to approve new organizational communities.

  7. Achieve Critical Mass: Aim for a critical mass of members to create a thriving community, preferably with at least 200 participants, with a minimum of 100. A general rule is to have 10% active participants and 1% who actively engage.

  8. Begin Broadly and Logically: Start with an initial definition that is as broad and logical as possible.

  9. Cultivate Community: Assign responsibility to the community leader for actively and continuously nurturing the community. This involves initiating dialogues on relevant topics, connecting with existing communication networks, promoting events and meetings, sharing various content, and encouraging diverse participation to avoid dominance by a few. Strive for growth and development in the community, and if a community is not thriving, consider discontinuing it.

  10. Establish the Foundation: Define the following aspects for each community:

    1. Goals

    2. Expectations

    3. Requirements (to define areas of expertise)

    4. Members (based on topic, role, population, sector, and location)

    5. Activities

    6. Tools (to enhance engagement)


 For each of these elements, Garfield offers different models, tools, and implementation tips to ensure knowledge communities' successful establishment and growth.

 

Ron Young on Knowledge Assets

Ron Young, a pioneering figure and seasoned expert in knowledge management, has long advocated for knowledge asset management, focusing on critical knowledge within organizations. The model for comprehensive knowledge asset management revolves around two main axes:


Group Axis:

  1. Personal Knowledge Management and Innovation: This bottom-up approach to knowledge management addresses the challenge of managing the overwhelming amount of information we encounter. Personal knowledge management is considered one of the most crucial skills for knowledge workers in the 21st century.

  2. Team Knowledge Management and Innovation: This axis overlaps with the concept of organizational learning and encompasses ideas from Sanji (Japanese for shared learning).

  3. Organizational Knowledge Management and Innovation: This aspect combines strategy and infrastructure to create, maintain, share, and implement knowledge across the organization. It involves expert mapping and knowledge communities that facilitate knowledge flow among individuals.

  4. Extra-Organizational Knowledge and Innovation Management: This axis focuses on knowledge management, innovation, and relationship-building in valuable networks with customers, suppliers, competitors, partners, and stakeholders. It acknowledges that the most critical knowledge often resides outside the organization and should not be overlooked.

  5. Global Knowledge Management and Innovation: Representing a new level, this axis pertains to comprehensive, web-based sharing, open information, and knowledge co-generation with a broader audience.


Activity Axis:

  1. Communicating and Managing Information

  2. Cooperative Activities

  3. Learning and Knowledge Management

  4. Strategic Knowledge Asset Management

  5. Creativity and Innovation


Commentary:

  • The group axis does not depict separate entities but an interconnected ecological environment on a variable scale.

  • The activity axis is relevant to all components of the group axis, although it is described in less detail in this article. Young refers to other articles on his site and elsewhere for more comprehensive coverage.


 In conclusion, by effectively implementing these two axes, organizations can achieve exceptional knowledge and innovation management for improved performance. It is undoubtedly a worthwhile endeavor to pursue.


Knowledge Development in the Organization: John & Joann Girard's Insights

The Girards explore the concepts of data, information, and knowledge, often referencing NINAKA's SECI model. Here are the key insights they offer:

  1. while visually appealing, the data-information-knowledge pyramid faces a significant challenge: the need for clear boundaries. What might be considered knowledge for one person could be mere data or information for another. Managers who utilize these components for decision-making are less concerned about their labels and more focused on their practical value.

  2. Leveraging data mining and integration can create new knowledge through combination, as described in the SECI model. This new knowledge could provide a competitive advantage to the organization. However, it's essential to acknowledge that not every data combination adds value.

  3. Every organization possesses different types of knowledge: known-knowns, known-unknowns, unknown-knowns, and unknown-unknowns. The Girards draw on Rumsfeld's view to emphasize the importance of exposing the unknown. This can be achieved through a culture of knowledge sharing, where individuals have access to information beyond what they immediately need.

  4. During times of emergency or critical decision-making, new knowledge becomes crucial. Investing in assimilating desirable values into routine operations is recommended to be adequately prepared for such situations. These values will be a natural foundation for making informed decisions, even in challenging circumstances.

  5. After-Action Review (AAR) is a valuable tool for capturing lessons learned and developing extermination-based knowledge, per the SECI model. Implementing this tool facilitates the transformation of unknowns into knowns in an agile and positive manner.

 

BIG DATA and Knowledge Management by Tony Rhem

To comprehend the concept of BIG DATA, it is essential to understand its three main characteristics (the V3 model):

  1. Volume: It involves a vast amount of data.

  2. Velocity: The ability to process large volumes of data quickly.

  3. Variety: The data consists of diverse structured and unstructured types from various origins.


The data-information-knowledge pyramid serves as the foundation of BIG DATA. The value of this field is realized when machines and humans effectively use analytical tools to generate knowledge that aids in judgment and decision-making.


Databases can originate from diverse sources, such as users of social networks, government and public databases, competitors, partner providers, and organizational data.


Knowledge management can assist BIG DATA in the following ways:

  • nformation Catalog: Organizing and categorizing information from various perspectives.

  • Integration and leveraging information: Utilizing complementary knowledge to support analytical knowledge for decision-making.

  • Enhancing big data projects: Making them more organized, shared, efficient, and effective.


Conversely, BIG DATA can support knowledge management by:

  • Improving search engine results.

  • Conducting unstructured data mining.


Rhem emphasizes the importance of Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a scientific field that should interest knowledge management and prominent data professionals. He draws parallels between SNA and conventional knowledge maps, highlighting the significance of analyzing informal connections in knowledge networks.


Rhem proposes formulating an integrated architecture and concept for managing knowledge and big data in organizations. He suggests mapping organizational knowledge areas (marketing, personnel, technology, processes) and content handling processes according to the characteristics of BIG DATA (the V3 model).


Implementing BIG DATA in an organization is complex due to its unique characteristics. A well-organized information architecture can contribute to making data valuable to the organization. 

 

Creativity and Innovation by Stephanie Barnes

One of the advantages of knowledge management as an interdisciplinary field is the diverse expertise it attracts, enriching the area with different perspectives. The author of this article is not only involved in knowledge management but is also an artist. Drawing on her experience, she explores the mutual influence between knowledge management and creativity and innovation.


 Definitions:

  • BA (Business Anthropology): A dedicated space for fostering relationships between people and promoting ideas.

  • Creativity: The ability to transcend and generate new ideas, meanings, configurations, or understandings based on existing knowledge.

  • Critical Thinking: Objective analysis and evaluative judgment based on it.

  • Design Thinking: Balancing analysis and creativity in thinking and problem-solving.

  • Innovation: Introducing a new or more effective idea, device, or product.


Ideas for implementing knowledge management tools to encourage innovation and creativity:

  1. Integrating scientists and art professionals into development centers (Xerox).

  2. Visiting peer organizations to explore innovative and creative products and services.

  3. Forming cross-organizational think tanks with individuals from diverse backgrounds (Lexis Nexis).

  4. Promoting critical thinking by asking questions, reflecting, challenging assumptions, understanding roots, and sharpening senses.


Ideas for implementing innovation and creativity tools for knowledge management:

  1. Applying critical thinking to knowledge management activities.

  2. Incorporating Design Thinking principles in knowledge management, such as a human focus, purposefulness, and a balance between analysis and creativity.

  3. Adopting principles that foster creativity in knowledge management activities, including adequate rest, relaxation, and combining learning with experimentation.


 It's essential to recognize that creativity drives innovation, enabling organizations and their people to continually develop, learn, and mature.


Strategic Knowledge Management by Arthur Shelly

Principles for promoting strategic knowledge management processes in organizations include:

  1. Focus on areas that create the most value for organizational success. Recognize that knowledge sharing and development drive innovation rather than the knowledge itself being the primary focus.

  2. Foster a culture of insights within the organization through various tools such as mentors, openness to new ideas, processes that challenge fixed work patterns, built-in competitive tension, and diverse knowledge communities for sharing ideas and promoting social discourse.

  3. Implement Bloom's learning model to advance the organization across levels: secretary, understanding, implementation, analysis, evaluation, and co-creation.

  4. Transition information that supports field personnel's performance into knowledge that supports managers, management, and senior management, ensuring informed decision-making.

  5. Establish links between the creation and use of knowledge and its organizational benefits.

  6. Think, plan, and prioritize the next stage of knowledge sharing and development, including improving the flow of organizational knowledge, integrating organizational knowledge into strategic discourse, enabling the transition from awareness to action in knowledge management, fostering collaborative and proactive knowledge management, and sharing knowledge with other organizations engaging in similar processes.


These ten articles cover diverse directions, yet they also demonstrate connecting lines and valuable insights that can be learned from each. I must admit that there is much to gain from exploring these principles.


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