Originally published on February 12, 2018

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This is the fifth article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management who are gone but not forgotten. Carl Frappaolo was born on March 27, 1956 and died on March 17, 2013. Carl founded three companies including Delphi Group and Information Architected. As a consultant, he developed the knowledge management strategies for many organizations around the world in both the public and private sector. At the time of his death, Carl was the Director of Knowledge Management at FSG Social Impact Consultants in Boston.

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Carl was the creator of Delphi’s Knowledge Management Methodology (KM2), Portal Design and Development Methodology (PDDM), e-learning methodology (ELM), and Stair-Step design methodology. He sat on the board of the Electronic Document Systems Foundation. He was recognized by AIIM International (the Association for Information and Image Management) as a Master of Information Technology and as an Information Systems Laureate, and in 2000, was bestowed the Distinguished Service Award by AIIM.

  1. Bio
  2. Obituary
  3. Profile


  1. Does your content management strategy put you at risk?
  2. The convergence of ECM, KM and innovation management
  3. Knowledge Management Software: Capturing the Essence of Know-How and Innovation
  4. Case Study Analysis: Portals
  5. CIO
  6. CMS Wire Articles
  7. FSG
  8. Information Architected
  9. SlideShare
  10. Twitter
  11. Enterprise 2.0: Agile, Emergent & Integrated with Dan Keldsen
  12. Taking AIIM

Often when I am asked “What makes a good knowledge leader?” I tell a story about a presentation I was once giving, when I was asked that very question. I began my response by listing attributes and qualities, such as: patient, nurturing, good at highlighting the skills and accomplishments of others, willing to accept the blame when things go wrong and put all the glory on the knowledge provider when things go right …” In the middle of this description, a member of the audience shouted out “Hey, you are describing my mother.” From then on I have used this metaphor. An effective KM leader is a mother: selfless, promoting accomplishments of “the family,” in a support role ensuring the family matures in a healthy way.

The purpose of knowledge management (KM) is to get people collaborating — to share and reuse know how and experience. Note that this does not place any demand on technology. Indeed, I often stress the best form of KM is talking to everyone who might know something about your focus du jour. The problem with this approach is, of course, scale and recall, and that is where technology provides value. The introduction of KM technologies, can provide unlimited knowledge capture and asynchronous discovery. But technology is a double edged sword, and this is where remembering to approach technology-empowered KM with a grain of salt is important.

Imagine the ability to execute searches on any topic, any issue, and on people’s backgrounds with near perfect total recall. Powerful — right? So where is the other edge of the sword? KM is a balancing act. Unrestricted abilities to capture and retrieve are very powerful, and addicting. Know when enough is enough. Asynchronous communication is a time saver, its scalable and powerful — but not to the exclusion of mentoring, discussing, and face-to-face group collaboration, and it should never go so far as to keep you from reaching a decision and taking action.

Articles by Others

  1. Managing Knowledge by Bob Larrivee
  2. Can E2.0 Crack Through KM Culture? by Mary Abraham
  3. The Best Way to Share Knowledge by Matt Simpson
  4. Conversations as The Future of Conferences by Matt Simpson
  5. Jack Vinson
  6. KMWorld
  7. FSG wins KMWorld Reality Award
  8. Knowledge management: shaping the profession by Judith Lamont

At the Delphi Group, Carl Frappaolo directed a consulting group that assists companies in planning KM initiatives. “The best person for a CKO position is someone who is familiar with the organization, well connected, and most important, very trusted,” says Frappaolo. Trust is a key factor because the CKO’s job entails persuading people to share information, and they must get a sense that they will not be vulnerable as a result. Strong communication skills are required in order to explain the mission and process, yet whose ego allows other people to take credit for the knowledge that they bring to the table.

“Knowledge management has not really come of age yet,” says Frappaolo, “but organizations are realizing their opportunities to grow through acquisition are limited.” Particularly in tough economic times, success can come from leveraging the organization’s intellectual capital through tighter communities of practice and improved knowledge exchanges. He cites a metals company that had purchased nearly all the competing firms, and “to their credit, realized that accessing all that knowledge would be a challenge.” The company created a knowledge team and conducted a knowledge audit. The resulting plan defined both a culture and technology infrastructure that would foster collaboration and innovation. The company began to discover pockets of knowledge sharing.

“With a little structure and publicity,” says Frappaolo, “these successful methods can proliferate throughout an organization.” The effectiveness of the effort hinges on the credibility of individuals promoting change. Frappaolo envisions a future in which the discipline of KM helps make the processes and techniques explicit, and it becomes a more clearly defined field. He believes that the real sign of success, however, will come further down the road when KM becomes completely integrated with organizational functions. At that point, KM will not be an add-on but will be indistinguishable from the process of running a business. In that sense, the field could come full cycle, losing the KM label but retaining its functions, although at a much more sophisticated level.


  1. Marc Solomon
  2. Mary Abraham
  3. Kate Pugh
  4. Larry Hawes
  5. Boston KM community


  1. A Conversation with AIIM Fellow Carl Frappaolo by Bryant Duhon
  2. Talking with Carl Frappaolo about SharePoint — podcast with Dennis Byron
  3. Preparing for Conversations with Carl Frappaolo by Jerry Ash
  4. Conversations with Carl Frappaolo by Jerry Ash


1. 5 Models for Collaboration

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2. Knowledge Management

3. Technology Map to KM


1. Knowledge Management

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2. Electronic Document Management Systems: A Portable Consultant with Thomas M. Koulopoulos

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3. Smart Things to Know About, Knowledge Management with Thomas M. Koulopoulos

4. Next Generation Knowledge Management: v. 1 — Chapter 3: Taking Stock of a Different Asset

5. Next Generation Knowledge Management: v. 2 — Chapter 5: This one’s for the knowledge worker — with Jerry Ash


1. Future of Search Technology — with David Weinberger

2. Building a Collaborative Culture

3. Boomers vs. Millennials — Who’s to Blame? with Dan Keldsen

4. Why is There Resistance to Enterprise 2.0?

5. Horses’ Mouths with Dan Keldsen

If you know of additional content by or about Carl, please comment and provide the link.

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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