Managing Knowledge to Ensure the Future

Originally posted Nov 22, 2016

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Q: I wonder if you have an article or post that explains or highlights from your point of view the impact of managing knowledge today on the organization’s future. In other words, the role of KM today in envisaging the future and being prepared for it.

A: The impact of managing knowledge today on an organization’s future is quite significant. Essentially, its impact is the continued existence of the organization. Use the following 4x4 strategies and approaches to help ensure that your organization has a future.

1. Pursue 4 Knowledge Management benefits

1–1 Avoid making the same mistakes twice

George Santayana said, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will experience them over and over again. Knowledge management allows us to share lessons learned, not only about successes, but also about failures. In order to do so, we must have a culture of trust, openness, and reward for willingness to talk about what we have done wrong. The potential benefits are enormous. If NASA learns why a space shuttle exploded, it can prevent recurrences and save lives. If FEMA learns what went wrong in responding to Hurricane Katrina, it can reduce the losses caused by future disasters. If engineers learn why highways and buildings collapsed during a previous earthquake, they can design new ones to better withstand future earthquakes. If you learn that your last bid or estimate was underestimated by 50%, you can make the next one more accurate and thus earn a healthy profit instead of incurring a large loss.

1–2 Make scarce expertise widely available

If there is a resource who is in great demand due to having a skill which is in short supply, knowledge management can help make that resource available to the entire organization.

1–3 Make the organization’s best problem-solving experiences reusable

Consistently applying proven practices, can significantly improve the results of any firm. For example, if a manufacturing plant in one part of the world has figured out how to prevent the need for product rework, and all other plants around the world adopt this practice, savings will flow directly to the bottom line. By establishing a process for defining, communicating, and replicating proven practices, an enterprise takes advantage of what it learns about solving problems.

1–4 Stimulate innovation and growth

Most businesses want to increase their revenues, but it becomes increasingly difficult as industries mature and competition increases. Creating new knowledge through effective knowledge sharing, collaboration, and information delivery can stimulate innovation. If you achieve this and many of the other benefits enabled by knowledge management, you should be able to achieve growth.

2. Get knowledge flowing in 4 ways

2–1 Connection: collaboration, communities, and social networks for sharing tacit knowledge. Connecting people allows them to exchange knowledge by communicating with one another.

2–2 Boundary spanning: bridges across organizational boundaries for enabling knowledge to flow between previously-isolated groups. Building bridges to connect otherwise unconnected networks makes available previously unknown sources of knowledge.

2–3 Discovery: processes for learning from existing sources of information, including systems, databases, and libraries. Scouring established knowledge bases in order to gain insights, distill trends, and uncover useful nuggets can provide a competitive advantage.

2–4 Creation: processes for stimulating innovation and facilitating invention. By using the other modes of knowledge flow, creative ideas can be developed into useful new products, services, and ways of getting work done.

3. Apply 4 Knowledge Management strategies

3–1 Analyze

Reviewing collected information may reveal patterns, trends, or tendencies which can be exploited, expanded, or corrected. Distilling data to extract the essence leads to discovering new ideas and learning how to improve. Knowledge can be harvested in the form of lessons learned, proven practices, and rules of thumb.

Sense-making is the way in which we make sense of the world so that we can act in it. Dave Snowden describes technologies that process large volumes of data with a view to weak signal detection and pattern recognition. Another kind is naturalistic sense-making, derived from an understanding of the cognitive processes that underpin human decision making.

People can also be analyzed to reveal useful facts. Social Network Analysis maps and measures relationships and flows between people, groups, or organizations to improve communities, identify missing links, and improve connections between groups. Using Positive Deviance can help find those whose special practices, strategies, and behaviors enable them to find better solutions to prevalent problems than their neighbors who have access to the same resources.

3–2 Codify

After collected knowledge has been analyzed, it can be codified to produce standard methodologies, reusable material, and repeatable processes. Data can be consolidated, content can be collated, and processes can be integrated to yield improved business results.

3–3 Invent (See Invention)

Creating new products and services, coming up with new ideas to try out, and developing innovative methods and processes can help transform an organization, industry, or a nation.

Generating new sources of customer demand, stimulating personal and organizational growth, and rethinking the existing rules of the road can help an organization develop, thrive, and endure. Failure to do so may lead to stagnation, decay, or death.

Knowledge management can help trigger the imagination by providing a continually replenished source of ideas and experiences. People help bring out the best ideas in each other through their interaction as a part of networks. Publishing white papers stimulates creative thinking. Analyzing collected knowledge reveals patterns and opportunities for new developments.

3–4 Augment (See Cognitive Computing)

Cognitive computing can simulate human thought processes and mimic the way the human brain works, addressing complex situations that are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty. Artificial intelligence can perform operations analogous to learning and decision making in humans. Intelligent personal assistants can recognize voice commands and queries, respond with information, or take desired actions quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

Using these approaches can enhance the capabilities of humans by augmenting their powers of observation, analysis, decision making, processing, and responding to other people and to routine or challenging situations. Cognitive computing tools such as IBM Watson, artificial intelligence tools such as expert systems, and intelligent personal assistant tools such as Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Google Home, and Microsoft Cortana can be used to extend the ability of humans to understand, decide, act, learn, and avoid problems.

4. Follow 4 approaches

4–1 Work toward realizing a vision for how knowledge management (KM) should work

  1. People, process, and technology elements are in place to enable everyone to conveniently Share, Innovate, Reuse, Collaborate, and Learn
  2. A single global platform is available, with access to community sites, websites, team sites, content repositories, and collaboration tools
  3. Everyone can interact with the platform in the ways they prefer, including entirely by email, mobile client, desktop client, web browser, RSS feed, etc.
  4. A unique global, cross-functional community is available for each major specialty, role, and focus area, with a site, a calendar, frequent events, useful news and content, and active discussions
  5. Everyone belongs to at least one community, including the one most closely aligned to their work, and pays attention to the community’s discussions and activities
  6. Anyone needing help, an answer to question, content, an expert, or information on what the firm has done and can do can post in a community discussion board or the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and receive a helpful reply within 24 hours
  7. Everyone can easily find, follow, be made aware of, and share what is going on in the ESN, activity stream, blogosphere, content repositories, etc.
  8. People are recognized, rewarded, and promoted if they Share, Ask, Find, Answer, Recognize, Inform, and Suggest, and leaders set a good example by doing so themselves
  9. What one part of the firm knows, the rest of the firm knows; different parts of the firm routinely work together; ideas are solicited and implemented; high levels of trust and transparency exist; leadership engages with all levels of the firm’s members; people work out loud and interact with people they didn’t know before; and individuals learn effectively
  10. Decisions are made quickly and effectively, it’s easy to find information and resources, open communications are made frequently and widely, redundant effort is avoided, mistakes are not repeated, scarce expertise is made widely available, clients see how knowledge is used for their benefit, sales and delivery are accelerated, innovation and growth are stimulated, morale is high, and the firm’s reputation is strong; as a result, the firm thrives

4–2 Move from fragile to agile and from “need to know” to “need to share”

4–3 Retain knowledge to deal with the departing workforce

4–4 Engage millennials effectively

See also my LinkedIn articles and What are new ideas in knowledge management?

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager

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