Questioning Practice: Why we keep questioning what KM is…

What Knowledge Management is .. not..

I need to implement a system to get our people to share information so that when they or others leave, our company can continue to make widgets and make money.

I need to build a process to suck the brains out of our staff so that we can shed them (the people) when we are finished with them.

I need to buy a technology so that I don’t need to consider people at all.

I was a consultant not long ago and I was part of a lot of discussions that sounded very close to this.   Currently, I read articles, blogs, tweets and books about what knowledge management is “as defined.”   As a practitioner I am pretty frustrated about the lack of continuity in discussions around this subject.   Over the years I have had the benefit and honor of meeting hundreds of people working in this field.   We have a challenge that we as KM practitioners must address and that is the questioning of the KM practice itself as opposed to the challenges of the practice.

The bottom line here is that no matter how it is discussed, knowledge management isn’t a thing and it certainly isn’t one thing.  It is an area of practice, it has a an ecosystem of people, process, methods and tools.  What is most often missed is the focus on the outcome of knowledge management over the implementation of some one system or process.

KM is multiple disciplines used in patterns to accomplish various outcomes all in support of getting the right information / knowledge to the right people, at the right time, to help them achieve their purpose.

The complication of this work stands in the nuance of the details in practice.   A medical doctors job is to heal or to exert a healing influence.   I never see articles that question why medical doctors research new tools, process and practice to heal patients.    In fact,  this year at the APQC event one of the speakers in a Neuroscientist.  Will someone question how the brain is related to KM?  There is a clear connection with the relationship of how people work and perceive the world and how they share.  If we are worried about the connection over the objectives, we have a problem here.  I have to wonder if our community is doing a good job of framing the practice.    As a consultant.  I found myself consistently defining KM.

“We know there are many definitions for KM and…so, we are going to say that KM is..”   What I did that may have been different than other consultants was check myself at the door.   As part of the SKIM Leaders yahoo group led by Stan Garfield I listened to some of the 500+ members of the group as they have and continue to define and normalize terms and practice.

In other words, I am looking to demystify the practice of KM.   We keep questioning what KM is as opposed to questioning what we can do to help each other accomplish our goals.  It is like arguing about what art is as opposed to working together to create a beautiful or compelling piece.   As we continue to question the practice we have an iatrogenic effect in that we confuse the people we seek to help.

The Wake Up

Unless the Ray Kurzweil has a new epiphany on the singularity, we will have a little time before the rise of the machine. 

This means that we have a need to share knowledge and we have had that need through all of human history, no matter what it was called.   Are we going to continue to scratch our heads around this need or start levering our best tools, lessons learned, practices and stories to be as effective and impactful as possible?