This blog post is a part of a presentation I gave at the 76th World Library and Information Congress. In the presentation, I explained why we should embrace KM initiatives, how we should do this, and how a global KM initiative has successfully been implemented.
After mentioning in the previous weblog post that there are two incentives in global development aid why they should embrace global KM initiatives, I will now continue to explain how institutes, NGOs and many more of these clubs should roll-out a global KM initiative. It will be a bit of theoretical background to the third and final weblog post in this collection, which is about the Focuss.Info Initiative and will be submitted at the end of this week.
Moving from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows
By focussing on knowledge flows we manage to get the latest information and knowledge that is available. Let me give you an example.
Think about the old fashioned KM way. We work on a project and at the end of this project we write a report that describes the process. After writing such a report it is often stocked in a database, and will be made retrievable to others who might be interested in this specific knowledge about running a project.
A year later, a colleague is starting a new project. She accesses the database and uses some time to find and evaluate documents that could help her to manage her project in a good way. She finds the document from this colleague, but it is already one year old, and what was the context of that particular project? Is it applicable to this project, because in a year time some things could have changed a lot.
So, in this so-called old-fashioned KM way, people are creating stocks of knowledge which is time-consuming. We need to make knowledge explicit, phrase language so that it can be understood by others, and eventually others should retrieve the knowledge in a database.
And by making knowledge explicit we also lose a lot of context: the context we need to know in order to judge whether it is applicable in an other situation. Dave Snowden, one of the major KM thinkers of this time, argues in one of his most-cited weblog posts that "we always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down". So, he argues that the process of taking things from our heads, to our mouths to our hands involves loss of content and context.
Therefore it is important to focus on knowledge flows. Get in contact with the person who managed the project, follow her, and tap into her current knowledge base. And by starting conversations, we can create a stimulus for recall, because we only know what we know when we need to know it. Small verbal or non-verbal clues can provide these ah-ha moments when a memory is recalled.
Cultural impact on knowledge flows
Snowden also argues that knowledge can only be volunteered and it cannot be conscripted. We cannot go to someone - virtually or physically - and ask him or her to share knowledge. We cannot make someone share their knowledge. We first need trust someone fully before this person will share his or her knowledge. Therefore KM initiatives should create a culture of trust and transparency.
And when we start to embrace the latest information sharing and collaboration technologies, we often do not know each other because we can be someone from the other side of the world, and by using these technologies we are often missing the physical contact.
We therefore need to obtain new skills or conditions in order to be trusted in networks and to be successful in knowledge sharing initiatives. We need to change our culture where we are working in, because for decennia we created trusted bonds by looking straight in the eyes. By using these new information sharing and collaboration tools we often cannot do this, and this can give an uncomfortable feeling (sharing something without knowing the other person). In order to make sure that people are not becoming uncomfortable with these situation - situations which will be more common than rare - we should also focus on the cultural issues when launching a KM initiative.
2-folded strategy to roll-out global KM initiatives
Working in a network-based environment is indeed requiring new cultural abilities. KM initiatives should therefore focus on two abilities. I describe these abilities as promoting structural knowledge and cultural knowledge.
Structural knowledge means that people should have the ability - or the knowledge so to speak - to use the new information sharing and collaboration tools. This ability helps people to benefit the ease to connect, which eventually helps them better to collaborate and tap into ongoing conversations.
But what are technologies that improve the ease to connect worth when there is no willingness to connect? Therefore, people should also have the ability to work in these new cross-border and cross-cultural collaborative environments. And in my view this kind of culture should feel real and enhances transparency.
This two-folded approach of structural and cultural knowledge has successfully been adopted in the field of global development cooperation with the Focuss.Info Initiative. The third, and final, weblog post will describe more about this