So you have read Davenport & Prusak or Von Krogh etal, you can drag Nonaka 1965 or O'Dell & Grayson from your shelves, you are now reading Knowledge Management and the Smarter Lawyer, the November 2003 copy of the Journal of Knowledge Management has landed on your desk and you have just returned from KM Europe's latest conference.
Now it time to survey the KM landscape- check the signposts:
Bottom up or top down?
Making knowledge work can be very hard if the organization itself is not prepared, does not have knowledge as part of 'the' plan, is blind to the need for opening up communications and just does not see the need to build a supportive culture of care and sanction for knowledge activities. Finding and supporting communities of practice which have no 'market', sanction or reception for their insights is a lonely road.
Re-use or innovation?
Let's clean up our internal act first, capture what we know, distribute local knowledge and avoid re-invention! Often firms become stuck in first generation "supply side" KM as Mark McElroy calls it, and never make it to sustainable competitive advantage from improved innovation or increased flexibility and adaptation to the market.
Technology or people?
Most firms know the answer here but do the easy one. They then wonder why ROI is low, a new fad come knocking and how to write-off those large IT expenditures.
Process or practice?
We need to have a clear understanding of how knowledge will be created in this firm then make sure everyone follows the approved process!, right on - you have just lost most of the opportunity and intrinsic motivation before you get out of the starting blocks. Knowledge work defies a straight jacket and k. process optimization will lead you into the wilderness.
Language or representation?
Should you concentrate on emergent concepts or automated inference? Will it be time in dialog forums or validating rule repositories that gather all the energy and funding? Do you need to pump up the ideas entering the firm or tighten up on the use of 'quack' heuristics?
Social learning or knowledge portal?
Do we really need to have folks wandering around talking all day?, let's rather build a super intranet and post all the best information so employees can read and make valid decisions based on the right information just when they need it. But people need to belong, to identify, to be stakeholders, to co-create before they will trust, use, evangelize, share and understand.
We need to focus here!, is a common cry so please take your pick:, customer insights, solutions to common problems, mapping what we know, building yellowpages, inventory [intellectual, human, structural, customer] capital, building relationships, capturing product knowledge, monitoring competitors, mining transactions, capturing web behavior.
Aha said the sage, what you need is balance, a bit here and some from there so:
Start small, grab the low hanging fruits, avoid enterprise wide technology solutions, culture an ecology of communities, encourage an informal idea market, work on hiring profiles, start new web forums that cut across silos, play with language, cultivate the emergent activists, encourage boundary spanners, staunch the IC outflow through professional networks by listening to frustrations, always watch the outfield, make business intelligence & customer knowledge everyones job, listen to newbies, kill losers fast......
OK test yourself:
* Do we really recognize and value knowledge creation (innovation)?
* Do we reward learning (even when it comes from failure?)
* Do we match quality talent with quality ideas even when they are not our own?
* Do we cultivate relationships and show empathy for intellectual diversity?
* Do we encourage deep dialog and creative abrasion
* Can we discover, share and use key business rules?
And who ever said KM was easy?