As I talked to people at KM World this year and as I’ve worked with students in the CSUN KM program I’ve come to a greater realization that what KM means to me…is not what KM means to others.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the story of the blind man and the elephant. In the story, a group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part such as the side, the ear, the trunk or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement.
In many ways this is an apt metaphor for KM. I suspect that all of us have been exposed to or “touched” some version of KM.
As I have talked to people I’ve realized that to many…KM is that “part of the elephant” they have touched. For some who were initially exposed to KM in the form of lessons learned and best practices – in other words documenting what you know so others can access it….KM is “lessons learned and best practices.” For others who were initially exposed to KM through a lens of content management and search…they see KM as a variant of document and information management or perhaps semantic search, taxonomy and metadata. Some see KM as communities of practice. Some see KM as a very sophisticated search algorithm that allows you to find anything any time you need it. And recently some see KM as what is termed Enterprise 2.0…or using social media tools such as wikis, blogs and Facebook type applications to tap into what the organization knows.
I was originally exposed to KM through the mentorship of Kent Greenes who left me with the view that KM is about… tapping into what others know so I can build on what they have done in order to do my job better. This may involve talking to Subject Matter Experts, it may involve conducting a peer assist, an action review or a retrospect, it may involve exploring lessons learned and documents, it may involve being engaged in a community of practice. In other words…KM is no one thing…or one process…it is a system or perhaps more aptly termed an approach to understanding what we know so that we can build on in order to improve our overall performance.
What I want to do in this blog is to explore these various aspects of KM and see how they are adding value to organizations. I also want to ask….is there potential for more value from KM if it is viewed as a system or an overall approach aimed at providing an organization the ability to leverage what it collectively knows in order to improve overall performance and to compete in this hyper-competitive knowledge based world.
What is your view – what is KM to you and to your organization? And what are the tools and processes that you have found to be most effective to help you and your organization leverage what is known in order to improve overall performance?