New KM trends of 2015
1 July 2015
What is Knowledge Management? Finding a single consensus definition is an infinite challenge. Common answers include: knowledge must be managed, gathered and distributed throughout the organization in a planned and controlled manner as well as created, updated and made accessible.
A recent study which examined the goals of Knowledge Management among KM managers in medium-large organizations raised several trends. Some are well known and as such are revalidated here while others are good news. Known trends such as accessibility and content management will continue to be central components of Knowledge Management, as will be professional communities which grant access to knowledge accumulated in specific areas of specialty in the organization. Nevertheless, these communities' main challenge is the ability to channel their accumulated knowledge for the benefit of the organization as a whole, then make it accessible to all users through intuitive technological means.
Organizations arduously proceed to improve their KM work methods by setting up or upgrading organizational portals, professional communities and search engines while emphasizing expertise fields and individual search features. Subsequently, organizations are undoubtedly aware of the need to enable knowledge flow in organizations. Nevertheless, too few organizations involve employees which hold knowledge critical to the process thus creating meaningful learning opportunities for knowledge receivers.
The study also shows that comprehending the importance of knowledge retainment to an organization establishes its position. Knowledge Management in this context contributes to studies and past work outputs remain accessible and enable use of this knowledge in the future.
The refreshing approach that this study manifests stems from the answer to its question "what should KM's final goal be?". This issue requires a quick re-cap.
It is quite interesting to review the evolution of the world of Knowledge Management across a timeline. From the once appreciated "knowledge is power" approach which viewed the knowledge holder as the highest professional authority to the KM of the present which implements a knowledge sharing approach by which each knowledge holder contributes their segments to create the complete knowledge.
The sharing issue evolved gradually. Technology undoubtedly simplified system merging and generated a connection beyond traditional limits; social media raised people's expectations for feedback and interaction and has seeped into organizational culture. The study's results confirmed that knowledge sharing has become the 'new regular'. While knowledge holders' levels of participation vary, the collective effort leads to the creation of databases.
What is the next stage in the evolution of Knowledge Management?
Based on the response of 90% of the participants of said study, it seems that Knowledge Management is ready to evolve and develop higher levels of added value functionality. Advanced functionality enables use of existing knowledge (following its gathering, capturing, and sharing as well as making it accessible) for improved decision making. After all, we all know what the wrong choices can lead to.
Another form of advanced functionality (still currently in use) in the world of KM is derived from the field of lessons learned. Lesson learning saves time as well as reduces the risk to repeat the same mistake too many times by collecting and editing the knowledge gathered by the experience of others.
What should be Knowledge Management's final goal?
While all participants unanimously agreed on KM's endgame, their opinions regarding the main inhibitors of its performance were more varied.
'Functional Silos' were identified as the main inhibitor among 50% of the participants. The term refers to independent business units which formulate independent policies without communicating or cooperating with other units. These 'silos' can harm organizational achievements since the benefits of sharing knowledge and team work are inadequate.
Despite knowledge sharing has become the new trend in some workplaces there are still plenty of cultural inhibitors such as unwillingness to share knowledge.
The use of legacy systems is brought up frequently as a main inhibitor, yet less than a quarter of the participants identified it as an inhibitor at all. What's interesting is that this inhibitor might be relevant to the teams as well; veteran workers are usually reluctant to perform basic tasks such as uploading documents to the organizational portal, creating procedures, etc.
Another inhibitor is a byproduct of striving for the improvement of the organization's knowledge tracking abilities. We accompany the organizational search with structured metadata thus cancelling the system's flexible responses to new additional types of knowledge.
The fact that system management and change management processes must be efficient, easy to use and applicable is clear to us; it is true that we are all too busy.
What are the greatest inhibitors of Knowledge Management?
So, how would you define Knowledge Management?