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Friday, June 15, 2007

Emergent Knowledge Management

There's been a long running discussion around what Knowledge Management is going to look like going forward and whether big systems that manage knowledge are going to be there. For example, see Bill Ives’ recent post, and Paula Thorton.

As I read through these, I began to wonder what happened to the idea that KM was going to move along the lines of what Andrew McAfee talks about around Enterprise 2.0. I had imagined that we would provide relatively simple, free-form tools like Wikis, blogs. Structure would come from a layer on top such as social bookmarking and digg, and, of course, from search across unstructured content. There would be tools like social networks that would allow us to find people inside and outside the enterprise. KM would become more of an issue of how you provide structure and get leverage on these free-form tools.

This vision aligns well with what I see happening in eLearning - Direction of eLearning - Emergence or Big System Tacit workers will use their PWLE to work and learn and it will be up to us to figure out how to aggregate and provide structure to leverage this information into valuable content for others in the organization.

Am I missing something here? Do we really think that there will be a new wave of Enterprise Knowledge Management or other big systems?


Anonymous said...

Hi Tony. Your text is very provocative, especially to those like me who had the chance to implement KM practices in the past. I think this may sound weird to those who are new to the subject, but enterprise wide KM tools have been around for around ten years now. Since the day Prusak and Devenport wrote "Working Knowledge" you could see both small software companies and IBM (with Lotus Domino) trying to bring KM to life through their solutions. Even though their were very complex and specific, their common objective were to convert tacit personal knowledge into explicit corporate knowledge. I can remember the strong emphasis on enterprise expert/expertise location (EEL) and automated content discovery/distribution. These applications are all about control. The company constantly gaining control over their knowledge resources to minimize the risk of knowledge loss or the impact of poorly distributed knowledge. The company could say who the experts were, what they were reading, how they were learning more of what they already know and so on. I don't want to make this too long, but I think in sum, our new web 2.0 tools are not prepared to offer management functions by default, simply because their are individual-oriented, not enterprise-oriented. Then a huge dilemma comes in: does the tool must serve the company or its people? Or people and company are one, and this whole speech doesn't make any sense... it at least makes a lot of sense to small learning technology companies that are visionary to implement those changes in the tools and make them more attractive to both CEOs and field service techs.

Tony Karrer said...

Rodolpho - thanks for the interesting comment. I've personally had limited experience with true EKM, but lots of experience with tactical KM implementations roughly 10-15 years ago. And the focus was certainly a dual focus of providing resources that would hopefully have value to knowledge workers and capturing knowledge in the enterprise. I'm not so sure I agree that they were "all about control" - they were half about control.

But when it comes to emergent, individual focused tools, with possible layers of additional enterprise capabilities on top - it does make it an interesting challenge for corporations to still maintain the value from the "capture the knowledge" side of things.

What also makes this more challenging is that the adoption path has changed with prosumer/consumer adoption leading the charge such that we expect to see more of this adopted outside the enterprise and the enterprise trying to catch up and get some control in place. It makes me start to think that KM will need to play as a layer on top of individual oriented tools that provides value to people in the enterprise, but also adds the capture elements.