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Monday, November 20, 2006

Knowledge Management Core Issues

Great post by Denham Grey - Perennial KM issues that are very similar to the core problems that we deal with in eLearning:
  • How to speed learning, increase awareness and share experiences.

    With an ever deceasing half-life of knowledge , just keeping up has become a major corporate imperative. Sure we have improved search engines, more stuff on the web and many ways to make connections, but the difficulty is making sense and finding people really 'in-the-know'. We need practical ways to build personal informal networks.
    Helping groups learn from mistakes and errors, practices to carry over learnings from project to project and improve corporate memory. We have made little progress in preventing those repeating errors, as firms grow in size and complexity, building relationships that enable knowledge flows, keeping in the loop and finding stuff becomes a huge issue. Could we improve the situation by adopting some emergent mindsets & web2.0 practices?

  • Discovering opportunities and gaps in knowledge flows, improving personal networking and finding experts (in larger firms).

    This requires ethnographic digging, an understanding of the organization, a deep appreciation of knowledge practices and emergent affordances. Not many firms recognize or care about sub-optimal performance in this area - the results you see, are diffuse, obtuse and difficult to fit into classic ROI models.

  • Providing environments, tools and processes that encourage informal learning, knowledge sharing of effective practices and stimulate innovation.

    Communities of practice, incentives & recognition for personal mentoring, story collection and telling, cross-domain and silo sharing can be useful, but there needs to sustained executive drive and support for this to have an impact.

  • Improving competitive advantage, agility and adaption by making staff more aware, sharing the small insights, building on incremental improvements.

    Open space methods, creating forums and 'Ba' for trusted exchanges, blogging and informal wikis may help. Once again top level support, legitimization and walking the talk - leading via example is the key.

  • Finding tacit knowledge sources and helping to put these to work.

    Tacit knowledge discovery is tedious, slow and difficult - most firms shy away from allocating resources to projects dealing with intangibles, where outcomes are unknown and ROI is hard to prove. As knowledge retention becomes an issue due to workforce transitions, this problem is not going away soon.

Great stuff Denham.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for passing this information along. Agree ... great stuff.

I like Jay's description of informal learning as the other 80%. Given the importance of informal learning and the emergence of Web 2.0, how does an organization incorporate this in their LMS-driven environment?


Dave Lee said...

Thanks for the great summary and analysis. I have to remember to re-link to Denham's blog. Not sure why I lost it.

I have two quick reactions to add. 1) Where is motivation in this discussion? Sometimes it seems we are more concerned about "the knowledge" and how we treat it or the technology to manipulate it. Is the learner ready for learning to be sped up? If they aren't aware of particular knowledge, why? People share experiences all the time, why aren't they sharing the ones we think they should be sharing?
2) These core problems aren't new and aren't unique to corporate learning. I've believed for some time that two of the enduring characteristics of education and those who facilitate the learning process is being an accelerator and a focusing agent. There truly is nothing that a human can't learn given adequate input and time. Education seeks to speed the process by supplying the appropriate inputs or guidance to them and, by one means or another, an environment that aides in keeping the learner focused on the topic at hand.

Frank: you have an uphill climb to "incorporate this stuff in an LMS-driven environment" because "this stuff" goes against the orientation adopted by most LMS.

Tony Karrer said...

Frank's comment about integrating into an LMS-driven environment is exactly the point you are making. Aren't LMS-driven environments (as they stand now) contrary in many ways to emergence and the thoughts put forward by Denham.

Great question about motivation Dave! That has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in learning and even bigger in Knowledge Management! What's my motivation to contribute my knowledge?