Walk a Mile
If you go to a fitness center and sign up for spin class would you trust your instructor if they looked like this?
All too often Knowledge Management “experts” and “consultants” have a great deal of academic experience, theories, data and knowledge but they may lack practical experience and wisdom to understand beyond words the challenges of starting, implementing, maintaining and managing a KM practice.
The broad scope of KM is covered well by Stan Garfield in his posts on LinkedIn. The simple thought that KM covers so many areas of thought and practice is fairly astounding.
- Best Practice Replication
- Best Practice Transfer
- Business Improvement Services
- Collaboration Systems
- Collective Learning
- Digital Enterprise
- Digital Transformation
- Enterprise 2.0
- Enterprise Collaboration
- Enterprise Content Sourcing
- Enterprise Learning and Collaboration
- Enterprise Social
- Enterprise Social Network
- Intangible Asset Plan
- Intellectual Capital
- Intellectual Property
- Knowledge and Information Management
- Knowledge and Information Sharing
- Knowledge and Learning Processes
- Knowledge Development
- Knowledge Enablement
- Knowledge, Engagement and Collaboration
- Knowledge Exchange
- Knowledge Flow Management
- Knowledge Management
- Knowledge Processing
- Knowledge Publishing and Curation
- Knowledge Retention
- Knowledge Science
- Knowledge Services
- Knowledge Sharing
- Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
- Knowledge Transfer
- Learning and Knowledge Exchange
- Learning Communities
- Learning from Experience
- Organizational Effectiveness
- Post-Industrial Knowledge Age Transformation
- Performance Management
- Radical Connectivity
- Social Business
- Social Collaboration
- Social Learning
- Social Media
- Social Networking
- Tackling Wicked Problems
The number of thought and practice areas are further complicated by the context of “where used.” In other words, if you are an “expert” in KM are you a generalist or do you specialize in something like CX (knowledge centered support), knowledge transfer, community etc.
Are you a “polymath’ of KM?
Practical Practice for Practitioner Preachers
The US Navy has a training device called the USS Buttercup by the time these sailors found themselves in this very cold and challenging training exercise, they spent a considerable amount of time learning about “Damage Control.” The navy starts teaching sailors about damage control right from the start at boot camp. The instructors are generally from engineering fields and are highly trained and experienced with shipboard firefighting, flooding, pipe patching, emergency operations.
Knowing what to do.. is different than doing … and for knowledge management this matters just as much and even more than other fields.
How does this apply to KM?
If you work for a company that sells knowledge management, the expectation is that you practice what you preach. If you are writing books about knowledge management, the expectation is that you have experience beyond the case study. If you have a desire to become an knowledge management expert, start “working out” or better yet “working out loud” and seek out ways to actually practice the trade.
Lead by Example
I personally started on the road to KM through learning about collaboration and collaboration patterns in project management with large geo-dispersed teams. It wasn’t easy and I think there were a few days that I would have traded for some time in the USS Buttercup. The reality of asking people to work together, reduce conflict and find ways to communicate, collaborate and cooperate under high pressure, high stress, and and high demand was no easy task. My team was learning along the way and more often than not we felt there wasn’t enough time to be academically astute. What we came up with was an agreement and understanding that we needed to work past the 42nd hour . We had to do the work but also learn the concepts behind it in order to master it.
For every area in the broad umbrella of knowledge management I would find something practical. I found through some pain and frustration that persistence and clarity of thought and vision (and faith) the most difficult challenges could be overcome. Here are a few examples of actions you can take to move towards mastery.
- As part of my practice, I realize that what I currently believe as “fact” is fungible and may no longer be a fact.
- Building trust is the key to success but without having context or purpose around your work, you can’t build trust.
- KM should always be tied to business and business should always be tied to people including employee engagement.
- If you want to learn about “how to” perform knowledge transfer build something from scratch that you may have some knowledge about but not be an expert in. I built an arcade system with a mix of old parts, new components, hand made pieces and customized software and operating system. I had to learn how to do some of the work and I had to find experts for software and hardware that is over 30 years old. In some cases I had to “make stuff up” because what I needed, I couldn’t find or it didn’t exist as I needed it. (Helps in Knowledge Transfer/ Crew Change / Community)
- Always study and learn, I read often and I work hard to take both old and new methods into practice. John Stepper talks about Dale Carnegie as part of his working out loud concepts.
- Practice in house at every level. When I was an Associate at Booz Allen, my peers would always tell me that I (can’t do) certain things and that what I was working on was not accepted by leadership. They were thinking about how they felt about their own boundaries not mine. Knowledge Management as a practice should come from multiple directions, it is an “omni channel” area of thought and business. Parts of it are viral and parts of it need leadership buy-in and ownership. It is up to you to make it work and become a leader from where you are.
Knowledge Management is a lot of things to a lot of people but with clarity of thought and context it can be the right information, to the right people at the right time. It is more than an academic exercise and you don’t need anyones permission to become a master of one or more areas in this field. At the same time, if you don’t practice what you preach, you may find yourself in the same boat as the 350 pound fitness trainer.