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Knowledge Management is the wrong attitude

Does knowledge need to be properly managed?
Will knowledge be increased or improved by managing it?
When I heard about “knowledge management” the first time in the late 90’s, this phrase was mostly used to describe what in my humble opinion was more related to information management. To collect and save pieces of information. And to have tools for proper data mining, so, to re-find previously collected and stored information. Also a honorable mission … but no true knowledge management. And a mission that is also still not finally accomplished. Sure, things have substantially improved, there are better tools and semantic tagging. But we all still suffer from fighting ourselves through exponentially increasing volumes of information day by day.

Then after a while the term “knowledge management” was occupied, misused and spammed by a wide range of software vendors. Even elevator control systems claimed to manage knowledge. BTW, quite similar to what still happens to “business intelligence”, … or did you observe a BI-software-related increase in intelligence related to business during the last years? If at all? (but this is another story to be continued somewhere down the blog)

Most knowledge management projects simply failed as knowledge obviously is a matter of human brains, not of IT. To avoid any misunderstanding, IT offers a fantastic range of tools and structures than can support knowledge sharing. And I greatly appreciate that as well as gratefully use those tools. But you just cannot limit knowledge management to IT. A while ago I joined an event with a superior manager, who answered a question on the company’s knowledge strategy with “we soon will have a new CIO and then things will improve”. No surprise than there was absolutely no advancement for years.
In contrast, there was this young entrepreneur who founded a knowledge management consulting business. His strategy was to infiltrate client companies with a team composed of an IT expert (for the supporting hardware/software view), a business consultant (for the financial and business process view), and … a psychologist having the mission to identify gaps and bottlenecks in the internal teamwork and related communication culture. Because knowledge can also be a matter of personal advantage and power. Unfortunately,  at that time the world was not ready for this innovative concept.
Now, during the last few years, communication functionality, social media and learning technologies came more and more into play. They finally shifted the understanding of knowledge management towards the more holistic concept. Knowledge is not managed … but created, communicated, shared. Knowledge is something living, something cultural. And – most important – the mission of knowledge is to be used instead of being stored.
After all, honestly spoken, I am not sure that I want anyone to “manage” my or others knowledge. I would prefer to be part of a living knowledge culture, supported and driven by the management.
In even doubt that knowledge can be managed at all.
What do you think?

Geman Post

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3 thoughts on “Knowledge Management is the wrong attitude

  1. Very much agree with you – as you could see from my recent book “Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow” – that is a lot what it is about and showing examples how one can make that work – It is not about managing knowledge it is about managing conditions so knowledge can flow from human to human (via information being exchanged). It is never a full transfer, but knowledge gets re-created at the receiving end based on information shared and the prior context of knowledge built over time in the receiver's head.

  2. “managing conditions so knowledge can flow” … I really like this phrase, Frank. And I feel validated that the whole story is about culture and human:human interaction. Unfortunately, applause and awareness for that view seem to mostly come from professional knowledge workers. I see the given threat of a specialists parallel universe, … and the strong need for stubborn persistence in the real world. 😉

  3. Pingback: The Knowledge-Carousel « TrapperPhD's Outpost

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