Originally published on June 22, 2016

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My book, Implementing a Successful Knowledge Management Program, provides principles such as:

Practice what you preach by doing the following:

  • Share what you have learned with others in your organization.
  • Innovate based on your own circumstances, ideas, and experience.
  • Reuse good ideas and examples in your own program.
  • Collaborate with colleagues from other programs and organizations.
  • Learn continuously about knowledge management, how to do it better, and what is new and improved in the field.

It also provides additional insights, including what other authors have written about KM principles. Here are 30 more:

1. In Developing a Knowledge-Based Theory of the Firm by Claus Otto Scharmer, Georg von Krogh discusses three topics:

  • Stages of KM
  1. Capturing Knowledge
  2. Sharing and Transferring Knowledge
  3. Generating New Knowledge
  • Blind spots
  1. Sources of rent
  2. High mobility and low loyalty of human capital
  3. The task-creating company
  4. The role of leadership in the knowledge economy
  • Importance of care
  1. Care is a gift
  2. Care drives attention

2. In Complex Acts of Knowing — Paradox and Descriptive Self Awareness, Dave Snowden describes three generations of knowledge management:

  1. First generation focused on timely information provision for decision support and in support of business process reengineeering initiatives.
  2. Second generation focused on tacit-explicit knowledge conversion.
  3. Third generation requires the clear separation of context, narrative and content management.
  • Complex adaptive systems theory is used to create a sense-making model that identifies a natural flow model of knowledge creation, disruption, and utilization.
  • Knowledge is seen paradoxically as both a thing and a flow requiring diverse management approaches.

3. In Volunteer not conscript, Snowden lists three rules of Knowledge Management:

  1. Knowledge will only ever be volunteered it can not be conscripted
  2. We only know what we know when we need to know it
  3. We always know more than we can tell and we will always tell more than we can write down

And a new formulation of the first rule:

  • If you ask someone, or a body for specific knowledge in the context of a real need it will never be refused. If you ask them to give you your knowledge on the basis that you may need it in the future, then you will never receive it.

4. In Rendering Knowledge, Snowden lists 7 Principles of KM:

1. Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted.

2. We only know what we know when we need to know it.

3. In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.

4. Everything is fragmented.

5. Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success.

6. The way we know things is not the way we report we know things.

7. We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down

5. In Our take on how to talk about knowledge management, Mark Schenk, Shawn Callahan, and Andrew Rixon list these characteristics of knowledge:

  • You cannot command people’s knowledge; you need to encourage them to share it.
  • We always know more than we can tell, and we can always tell more that we can write.
  • We only know what we know when we need to know it.
  • If knowledge is to be converted to information and vice versa, people must do virtually all the work.
  • Knowledge is sticky; it does not flow easily across organization boundaries.
  • Trust is an essential prerequisite for effective knowledge sharing in organizations.
  • When solving problems, our natural tendency is to ask questions.
  • Efficiency encourages codification; effectiveness encourages lower levels of codification and greater flexibility.
  • Sharing is a natural act.

6. In The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization on pages 314–315, under “Measuring the Efficiency of Knowledge Work and Knowledge Workers” Thomas Stewart provides a list from Wouter deVries of a dozen factors critical to the success of a knowledge-management project or initiative:

  1. Knowledge vision: Do we know what knowledge we need for this project or in this line of business?
  2. A clear connection to performance: Will this save money? Grow sales? And so on.
  3. A knowledge-friendly structure: e.g., teams vs. functional silos.
  4. A knowledge-friendly culture: Do people share or hoard?
  5. Adequacy of resources.
  6. Technical infrastructure: How good are our knowledge-management tools?
  7. Knowledge structure: Have we established a vocabulary and taxonomy for the knowledge we are using?
  8. Motivation: Are the right incentives in place?
  9. Clarity of purpose and goals.
  10. Is there a common terminology about knowledge management itself?
  11. Top management support.
  12. Power: How great is our ability to break through any organizational barriers we encounter?

7. Kaye Vivian reformulated 11 sins into The 11 Axioms of Knowledge Management:

  • 1. Knowledge can be defined.
  1. Corollary: We have not yet defined knowledge.
  2. Corollary: We have not yet defined knowledge management.
  • 2. Knowledge management is a process dependent upon people and what they know.
  1. Corollary: Knowledge management generates information artifacts.
  2. Corollary: Information artifacts are used to generate new knowledge.
  3. Corollary: Knowledge cannot be codified.
  • 3. Knowledge cannot exist outside the heads of individuals.
  1. Corollary: Information can.
  • 4. Knowledge exchange requires a shared context between individuals.
  1. Corollary: Knowledge can be exchanged or created within a shared context.
  • 5. Tacit knowledge is the true knowledge and cannot be managed.
  1. Corollary: To capture tacit knowledge is to make it explicit and convert it to information.
  • 6. Applications of knowledge are not the same as knowledge.
  1. Corollary: Using knowledge is not knowledge management.
  2. Corollary: Knowledge is separate from its uses.
  • 7. Thinking and reasoning are the engine of the KM process.
  1. Corollary: Thinking and reasoning result in knowledge.
  2. Corollary: Communicating the results of thinking and reasoning creates information artifacts.
  • 8. Documenting the past has value when no changes are anticipated.
  1. Corollary: The future can be influenced by today’s thinking and reasoning.
  2. Corollary: Documenting the past is content management.
  • 9. Experimentation is crucial to improvement.
  1. Corollary: Experimentation will occasionally result in failure.
  2. Corollary: Experimentation can result in big successes.
  • 10. Human interactions cannot be replaced by technology.
  1. Corollary: Knowledge development and exchange occurs in people’s brains.
  2. Corollary: Technology provides a means to capture discussions and convert them to information artifacts.
  3. Corollary: Knowledge management is not technology.
  • 11. Knowledge cannot be measured directly.
  1. Corollary: Knowledge has value to an organization.
  2. Corollary: Conventional balance sheet metrics do not adequately measure knowledge.
  3. Corollary: Information resulting from knowledge management can be measured.

8. In 12 Principles of Knowledge Management, Verna Allee lists:

  1. Knowledge is messy. Because knowledge is connected to everything else, you can’t isolate the knowledge aspect of anything neatly. In the knowledge universe, you can’t pay attention to just one factor.
  2. Knowledge is self-organizing. The self that knowledge organizes around is organizational or group identity and purpose.
  3. Knowledge seeks community. Knowledge wants to happen, just as life wants to happen. Both want to happen as community. Nothing illustrates this principle more than the Internet.
  4. Knowledge travels via language. Without a language to describe our experience, we can’t communicate what we know. Expanding organizational knowledge means that we must develop the languages we use to describe our work experience.
  5. The more you try to pin knowledge down, the more it slips away. It’s tempting to try to tie up knowledge as codified knowledge-documents, patents, libraries, databases, and so forth. But too much rigidity and formality regarding knowledge lead to the stultification of creativity.
  6. Looser is probably better. Highly adaptable systems look sloppy. The survival rate of diverse, decentralized systems is higher. That means we can waste resources and energy trying to control knowledge too tightly.
  7. There is no one solution. Knowledge is always changing. For the moment, the best approach to managing it is one that keeps things moving along while keeping options open.
  8. Knowledge doesn’t grow forever. Eventually, some knowledge is lost or dies, just as things in nature. Unlearning and letting go of old ways of thinking, even retiring whole blocks of knowledge, contribute to the vitality and evolution of knowledge.
  9. No one is in charge. Knowledge is a social process. That means no one person can take responsibility for collective knowledge.
  10. You can’t impose rules and systems. If knowledge is truly self-organizing, the most important way to advance it is to remove the barriers to self-organization. In a supportive environment, knowledge will take care of itself.
  11. There is no silver bullet. There is no single leverage point or best practice to advance knowledge. It must be supported at multiple levels and in a variety of ways.
  12. How you define knowledge determines how you manage it. The “knowledge question” can present itself many ways. For example, concern about the ownership of knowledge leads to acquiring codified knowledge that is protected by copyrights and patents.

9. In 7 basics of knowledge management, Steve Denning lists:

  1. Strategy
  2. Organization
  3. Budget
  4. Incentives
  5. Community
  6. Technology
  7. Measurement

10. In 6 laws of knowledge management, Denning lists:

  1. Knowledge is key to business survival
  2. Communities are the heart and soul of knowledge sharing
  3. Virtual communities need physical interaction
  4. Passion drives communities of practice
  5. Knowledge sharing has an inside-out and an outside-in dimension
  6. Storytelling ignites knowledge sharing

11. In 3 corollaries to the laws of knowledge management, Denning lists

  1. Knowledge sharing is at some point confused with IT
  2. Middle-management resists
  3. Vibrant communities of practice attract new talents

12. In 13 Key Elements Knowledge Management, Denning lists:

  1. Communities of Practice
  2. Place (online presence)
  3. Help Desk
  4. Yellow Pages (expertise location)
  5. Primer (FAQ)
  6. Knowledge Artifacts
  7. Bulletin Board (threaded discussions)
  8. Doorway (external access)
  9. Demand (enhance using narrative)
  10. Imagination (for transformational innovation)
  11. Risk Management
  12. Values (conducive to sharing)
  13. Social Media (blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, etc.)

13. In 10 steps to get more business value from knowledge management, Denning lists:

  1. Slice through the hype
  2. Fight off the IT firms
  3. Take a hard look at your own organization
  4. Set your knowledge management strategy
  5. Use narrative techniques to communicate your KM strategy
  6. Pay special attention to organizational values
  7. Encourage communities and cross-communities
  8. Set your incentives (carefully!)
  9. Measure progress (carefully!)
  10. Recognize the limits of knowledge

14. In KM principles, Denham Grey lists the following:

  1. Choose engagement over a repository
  2. Respect and appreciate the key role of trust & context
  3. Collect stories, use metaphor, ethnography and analogy to build inquiry
  4. Cultivate executive support
  5. The essence of KM:
  • increasing awareness
  • fostering learning
  • supporting sense-making

15. In 5 most important KM issues, Grey provides two lists:

A. 5 most critical issues facing Knowledge Leaders today

  1. Cultivating awareness of the knowledge imperative and advantage in our connected, global economy
  2. Connecting (local) knowledge actions with the (overall) business direction
  3. Building a culture that encourages the creation of new knowledge and making sharing happen
  4. Moving conversations into virtual space to surface assumptions, extend reach, improve brainstorming and leverage many to many communication
  5. Selecting a suitable, stable, scaleable technology to support a people centric knowledge strategy

B. 5 most critical issues facing Knowledge Leaders over the next 3–5 years

  1. Taking a successful KM strategy to all stakeholders (suppliers, customers and investors)
  2. Making knowledge work invisible — i.e., so well integrated it becomes a part of who we are and what we do!
  3. Building relationships so knowledge can flow, but keeping key inventions tacit to prevent leakage
  4. Crafting ontologies (taxonomies) so firms can use the emergent technology of meta-inference and apply advanced search & intelligent agents
  5. Keeping the focus on core KM issues (learning, collaboration, relationships, dialog, critical thinking) when the next management fad (complexity?) arrives

16. In Six Eyes of Seeing Knowledge, Luke Naismith explores “the hidden assumption that intellectual knowledge is the only lens for creating and sharing knowledge. Other eyes for seeing and sense-making have the potential to uncover new knowledge:”

  1. Intellect — arguably the most important eye. The basis of our logic, rationality and learning. Uses science as the metanarrative. Leads to Information and Intelligence (and knowledge of course).
  2. Instinct — knowledge gained from our initial response to sensory input without cognitive thinking processes. Able to form quick conclusions in a “blink” (Malcolm Gladwell). Knowledge here leads to Immediacy of Response but can lead to incorrect generalisations and stereotyping.
  3. Imagination — knowledge gained from our dreams, aspirations and visions. From this knowledge we gain Intention and Inspiration.
  4. Intuition — knowledge gained from emotional rather than intellectual understanding based on our relationships with others. From this knowledge we gain Integrity and Interconnectivity. It includes the notion of morphic resonance (Sheldrake), microvita (Sarkar) and emotional intelligence (Goleman).
  5. Insight — knowledge gained from our creative processes using theta waves. Happens best in the shower (or in Archimedes’ case, the bath). Happens when we are not thinking about things. Knowledge here gives us Improvisation happening In-Time.
  6. Ignorance — this is our hidden knowledge — what we don’t see. By focusing only on what we know, we miss the areas that we don’t know. KM is as much about managing our ignorance as it is about managing our knowledge. From our ignorance, we gain Inquiry leading to Interventions.

17. The new middle class, Thomas Friedman says, will be made up of workers in 8 fields:

  1. Collaborators — people who can tie things together, even people of different cultures.
  2. Leveragers — people who know how to leverage technology to meet needs.
  3. Synthesizers — people who can connect the dots
  4. Localizers — people who can use technology to start businesses from their garages — bring global resources to their neighborhood.
  5. Passionate Personalizers — people who can make people excited about simple/everyday things/anything.
  6. Anything Green — people who do good for the environment.
  7. Explainers — people who can explain and make sense of it all, teachers, online media
  8. Adapters — the people who train for the Olympics but don’t know what event they will participate — the people who are really flexible in many fields.

18. In The Innovation Sandbox, C.K. Prahalad writes that companies in any industry, in any country, can adopt a sandbox approach to breakthrough innovation. But it requires accepting a few premises that are counterintuitive to many managers:

  1. Radically rethink the entire business model: technology choices, scale, workflow, and organization.
  2. In addition to researching the field, get immersed in the lives of the target users. There are tough challenges in access, awareness, affordability, and availability, and only those who are grounded in the reality of their users’ work will understand their priorities. The users themselves may not articulate their needs.
  3. Accept constraints. You cannot do all things; you must do a few things very well. Many people have come to believe that creativity must be unconstrained; in practice, however, breakthrough creativity requires an explicit acknowledgment of limits.
  4. Don’t innovate in isolation. Breakthroughs occur when there are clusters of innovations, taking place continuously over time, in small experiments from which companies learn rapidly, and in an ecosystem involving many collaborators and partners.
  5. None of these changes will be possible without a clear and unflagging commitment to a strategic intent.

19. In Sense-Making, Mary Lee Kennedy quotes Karl Weick from his book Making Sense of the Organization to define seven properties of sense-making:

  1. Social context, i.e., the actual, implied or imagined presence of others.
  2. Personal identity, i.e., a person’s sense of who he or she is in a given setting: what threats to this sense of self the setting contains: and what is available to enhance.
  3. Retrospect, i.e., the perceived world is actually a past world in the sense that things are visualized and seen before they are conceptualized.
  4. Salient clues, i.e., the resourcefulness with which people elaborate tiny indicators into full-blown stories, typically a self-fulfilling prophecy or application of the documentary method (he sees this as key to what sense-making is all about)
  5. Ongoing projects, i.e., sense-making is constrained by the speed with which events flow into the past and events become outdated.
  6. Plausibility, i.e., coherence, how events hang together.
  7. Enactment, i.e., action to gain some sense of what one is up against by asking questions, making declarations, through prototypes, through probes to see how something reacts.

20. In Sensemaking, Knowledge Creation, and Decision Making: Organizational Knowing as Emergent Strategy, Chun Wei Choo lists three kinds of knowledge:

  1. Tacit knowledge in the expertise and experience of individuals
  2. Explicit or rule-based knowledge in artifacts, rules and routines
  3. Cultural knowledge in the assumptions and beliefs used by members to assign value and significance to new information or knowledge

Three kinds of knowledge creation:

  1. Knowledge conversion: the organization continuously creates new knowledge by converting between the personal, tacit knowledge of individuals who develop creative insight, and the shared, explicit knowledge by which the organization develops new products and innovations.
  2. Knowledge integration: the result of the organization’s ability to coordinate and integrate the knowledge of many individual specialists.
  3. Knowledge transfer: across organizational boundaries; can involve tacit, explicit, and cultural knowledge to varying degrees.

And four modes of organizational decision making:

  1. Boundedly rational mode: goal and procedural clarity are both high, choice is guided by performance programs
  2. Political mode: contested by interest groups, but procedural certainty is high within the groups; each group believes that its preferred alternative is best for the organization
  3. Anarchic mode: goal and procedural uncertainty are both high; decision situations consist of relatively independent streams of problems, solutions, participants, and choice opportunities arriving and leaving; a decision then happens when problems, solutions, participants, and choices coincide
  4. Process mode: goals are clear but the methods to attain them are not; decision making becomes a process divided into three phases:
  • Identification: recognizes the need for decision and develops an understanding of the decision issues
  • Development: activates search and design routines to develop one or more solutions to address a problem, crisis, or opportunity
  • Selection: evaluates the alternatives and chooses a solution for commitment to action

21. In Sharing Knowledge by Design: Building Intellectual Capital in a Virtual World, Nancy Settle-Murphy writes: “One relatively modest knowledge-sharing system may be the springboard by which an enterprise-wide system is born” and offers ten suggestions:

  1. Sell the benefits
  2. Appoint a KM leader who can dedicate meaningful time to building the right infrastructure
  3. Set up a community of practice (CoP) to start
  4. Create a formal repository in which knowledge can be dropped off
  5. Think globally
  6. Encourage the sharing of knowledge by embedding related activities within existing work processes
  7. Reward those who show special initiative in sharing knowledge.
  8. Cultivate senior management as champions
  9. Create a network of knowledge advisors
  10. Open the lines of communications among KM subject matter experts, regardless of their exact titles, roles and locations

22. In The Knowledge Management Domain: Knowledge Management Approach to Knowledge Management, Steven Wieneke and Karla Phlypo-Price use knowledge management techniques to define the domain of knowledge management. Their book asserts that the Knowledge Management Domain is made up of at least 8 disciplines comprising 50 specialties or dimensions.

Each specialty or dimension has 2 thresholds, one for initiation and another for sustainability. Between and on either side of the thresholds is a spectrum of metrics which measure the maturity of each specialty/dimension. The Domain and the spectra can be used to appraise the initiation readiness or the sustainability of a knowledge-based, learning organization. Additionally, the Domain and spectra can be used to create tactical and strategic KM initiatives. Wieneke and Phlypo-Price define up to 7 core competencies for each specialty or dimension.

The disciplines are:

  1. Knowledge Arenas
  2. Knowledge Capital
  3. Knowledge-based Learning Process
  4. Enterprise-wide Infrastructure
  5. Knowledge Arena Benchmarking
  6. Knowledge Arena Content Management
  7. Learning Organization
  8. Enterprise-wide Knowledge Socialization

23. In European Guide to good Practice in Knowledge Management — Part 1: Knowledge Management Framework, CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, provides the following framework:

  1. What, why and how to use?
  2. Core value-adding processes
  3. Core knowledge activities
  4. KM implementation and Change Management
  5. Enablers for KM
  • Personal knowledge capabilities
  1. Ambition
  2. Skills
  3. Behavior
  4. Methods, Tools and Techniques
  5. Time Management
  6. Personal Knowledge
  • Organizational knowledge capabilities
  1. Mission, Vision & Strategy
  2. Culture
  3. Process & Organization
  4. Measurement
  5. Technology & Infrastructure
  6. Knowledge Assets

The other four parts of the European Guide to good Practice in Knowledge Management:

24. In 6 Common Attributes of Knowledge Work and Knowledge Workers, Tom Davenport observes six basic principles:

  1. Knowledge workers like autonomy
  2. Specifying the detailed steps and flow of knowledge-intensive processes is less valuable and more difficult than for other types of work.
  3. “You can observe a lot by watching.”
  4. Knowledge workers usually have good reasons for doing what they do.
  5. Commitment matters.
  6. Knowledge workers value their knowledge, and don’t share it easily.

25. In Ten Things I’ve Learned About Knowledge Management, Bruce Karney lists:

  1. Connection, not collection, is the essence of knowledge management.
  2. The most useful definition of knowledge is: “the mental capacity to produce effective results.”
  3. The word “knowledge” is often misused. If you replace knowledge with experienceand the sentence sounds wrong, you’re talking about information, not knowledge.
  4. The unit of measure of knowledge is answers. KM systems fail if they can’t provide good answers quickly.
  5. It’s easier and more effective to manage ignorance (by eliminating it) than to manage knowledge.
  6. Helping people learn what they should pay attention to (a key skill of journalists and good bloggers) is the most overlooked way that KM can contribute to business success.
  7. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that frequent F2F knowledge sharing meetings are a luxury.
  8. Communities of Passion are what we should really be trying to inspire.
  9. For all the money HP spends on IT for KM, we don’t have much more capability to effect change than the leader of a Yahoo! Group gets for free.
  10. Google is the killer app of KM, and it, too, is free.

26. Knowledge Management Sins, Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Causes of Failure

27. Knowledge Management Myths

28. Knowledge Management Visions

29. KM Maxims and Q&A

30. My insights:

Out of these and other lists of maxims, guidelines, and definitions, choose the ones which sound the best to you. Add your own based on your personal experience. And apply them whenever a relevant question, challenge, or opportunity arises.

What other insights and principles have you found to be valuable?

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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