Is it not a paradox? Knowledge Management is a widely accepted management concept that also renders high consulting fees in the companies aiming to implement it. Yet, we still find endless discussions about how to define the asset that is being managed, i.e., ‘knowledge’. So far, very few, if any, have actually been able to provide a sensible definition of the concept ‘knowledge’ that makes it manageable. My personal opinion is that when, if ever, we reach a point where anyone can claim actual success in managing someone else’s knowledge, we are all in very big trouble, as this more or less equals mental manipulation.
Rather, what we are talking about is the management of enabling processes and tools for the business utilization of knowledge (whatever we mean by that?). My favorite quote, capturing most of this paradox, comes from Larry Prusac, at that time at IBM consulting:
“I call my field knowledge management but you cannot manage knowledge, nobody can. What you do, what a company does, is managing the environment that optimizes knowledge.”
To me, "knowledge" is something that is very personal and simply refers to each individual’s own ability to put new information in a perspective based on formal education and experiences, including values and personality. If my "definition" is correct, Knowledge Management quickly boils down to two core activities:
- An active HR strategy that aims to inspire and enable employees and partners to increase their personal knowledge domains, and
- An active business strategy that focuses on making information and colleagues accessible for the employees, depending on their business needs and roles in the company's decision process.
Now, those of you that followed my old blog (dead and buried for some time now) will recognize that this piece of text above is very similar to a piece I wrote some years ago, with one significant difference; the addition of “and colleagues“ in the second bullet above. Is this what we mean by corporations “going social” ? Is “social enterprise” just an addition to the existing infrastructures to enable me to find and communicate with colleagues but in a new and more efficient environment?
Finally a question for us definition geeks; are enterprise social tools and models a part of Knowledge Management or is it the other way around, or are they not related at all? J
You can read a more elaborated text of my definition thoughts on http://gabriel.anderbjork.se/docs/KM%20back%20to%20its%20roots%20-%20rev%20A.pdf