Paul Corney: Profiles in Knowledge

Stan Garfield
13 min readMay 13, 2020

Originally published May 13, 2020

This is the 56th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Paul Corney helps people and organizations make better decisions that improve the way they work, and helps them realize their potential by making the best use of their knowledge. Paul is based in Eastbourne, England. Paul and Patricia Eng interviewed me for their book Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion. I provided a review of The KM Cookbook that he co-wrote with Patricia and Chris Collison.

Paul Corney came to knowledge management while working in the City of London in the mid-1990s. He is the founder of Knowledge et al, a UK-based KM consultancy and the former Managing Partner of Sparknow LLP. Paul is an experienced practitioner, presenter, masterclass leader and lecturer. He speaks at international events on information and knowledge management. A member of the British Standards Institute KM Standards Committee (KMS/1), he was also a visiting lecturer on Brighton University’s MBA on Knowledge & Innovation.


From Paul’s LinkedIn Profile

My background is financial yet eclectic: I spent 25 years in the City as Senior Manager at Saudi International Bank and as a Vice President at Zurich Reinsurance. I was an early pioneer of intranets in the mid 90s, one of the first ‘knowledge managers’ in the city of London. In 1998 I embarked on a portfolio career that encompassed, consultancy, coaching and pro bono charitable work.

During that time, I have been Strategy & Business Advisor to the CEO of a dotcom software organization (Sopheon PLC) for 3 years, Information & Knowledge Advisor to the CEO of a leading reinsurance broker (BMS Group) for 7 years and Managing Partner of a successful consulting organization, Sparknow LLP from 2008–2012. In 2014 I was a founding Trustee of PlanZheroes a UK Charity.

In 2017 I was invited to become Knowledge & Information Management Ambassador for The Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP) a Charitable organization to help further the global cause of the KM profession through the development of a Chartership Accreditation Program. From January 2020 I was appointed President Elect.

I am an author, I run Masterclasses, and I speak at international events on information and knowledge management. A member of the British Standards Institute KM Standards Committee (KMS/1), I was also a visiting lecturer on Brighton University’s MBA on Knowledge & Innovation.

Diplomacy intrigues me. I am a member of the Royal Institute for International Affairs and of the Institute of Directors. I’ve been the Chairman of a golf club and the Manager of a football club both of which taught me the need for effective stakeholder engagement at a young age.


  • Knowledge et al: Managing Partner, 2012 — Present
  • CILIP (Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals) — The library and information association
  1. President, 2021
  2. Knowledge & Information Management Ambassador, 2017–2020
  • BSI KM Standards Committee: Member, 2015 — Present
  • Knowledge Associates: Principal Consultant, 2013–2016
  • Sparknow: Managing Partner, 2008–2012
  • CorneyCo: Owner, 1998–2008
  • BMS Group: Advisor, 2001–2008
  • Sopheon: Business & Strategy Advisor, 1999–2003




Equipping Today’s Knowledge & Information Manager for Tomorrow: Mastering the 8 Critical ‘ates’ and the Role of a “Knowledgeur”

Skills (8 ‘ates’) of a ‘Knowledgeur’

  1. Investigate: Are you putting out a burning fire / solving an immediate business need / addressing a risk (Operational KM) or is this driven by the vision from the top consistent with the organisation’s business direction (Strategic KM)?
  2. Navigate: Work out / Map the critical knowledge areas of your organisation and create a directory of the organisation’s knowledge assets.
  3. Negotiate: Agree the scope of your role with your sponsors and be tough negotiating what success will look like and how it’s measured.
  4. Facilitate: So much of what a KM Manager does involves facilitation. You will become a hub knowing who to approach if you don’t know yourself. You will have to facilitate connections, meetings, interactions, events and communities. This requires resilience, a lot of social skills and a real understanding of cultural nuances.
  5. Collaborate: You are in alliance with business areas and occasionally external suppliers or partners. You have to be capable of virtual cross border collaboration.
  6. Communicate: Senior KMers tell you to devote 30% of your time to communicating what you do and getting feedback — it’s not just about broadcasting. Have your KM Elevator pitch always with you. Let all your stakeholders know what you are doing and why.
  7. Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.
  8. Celebrate: The role can be a lonely one as reporting lines and sponsors change, yours is a cost not revenue line and the initial burst of enthusiasm fades. Collect stories, be prepared to acknowledge contributions and celebrate successes.

Transferring tacit knowledge — book of memories

Our challenge is similar to that we’ve seen with clients when experienced people depart:

  • How to pass on the knowledge Roger’s gained much of which has been tacit
  • How to ensure the same level of service is provided
  • How to recognize his contribution in a manner befitting of our style and values

Tacit knowledge transfer has been/is being covered by a period of parallel running with his successor Mark. Mark has been shadowing Roger for the last couple of months and now that is reversed, and Roger is shadowing Mark. I then hold monthly review sessions with the pair of them to see what issues have arisen and fine tune our processes. Our intention is to ensure a smooth seamless transition which thus far it has been.

To recognize his contribution, we asked a number of associates, friends, collaboration partners and clients to think of an image that best described Roger and then to write a brief anecdote.

The material was assembled and Roger’s ‘book of memories’ was born. A very surprised and delighted Roger was presented with his gift at a garden party.

Many struggle to find a way that recognizes the contribution of key people in a business so that when they depart their legacy lives on. Roger reading his ‘book of memories’ shows how much pleasure can be gleaned from a simple gesture.

Visions of a future knowledge worker — home & away

My role as knowledge manager in 2020 is to share everything I know without expecting anything in return, and you’ll see, eventually it comes back to me.

It occurs to me that the role of the knowledge worker in government is about to evolve. I see this creating a need for:

  • Improved awareness and restatement of the value of information and knowledge
  • Creative retention strategies based on the various stages of an employee lifecyle
  • Understanding that an outgoing employee takes more than just their knowledge when they leave or transfer; they also take a whole set of knowledge networks that may have been hidden
  • Capacity building to equip employees and the organization to become better at identifying, noting, sharing and using knowledge: in effect good personal knowledge management across a more horizontally structured organization

Lies, damned lies and comfort indicators

  • Indicators only work in context: far too many are ‘bean counting’ statistics or as one delegate put it, ‘comfort indicators’ that tell a half truth. Traffic to an intranet site may suggest an awareness target has been reached but gauging changed behaviors needs more qualitative measure. One of the conversations that arose focused on the danger of slavish adherence to targets.
  • There is no silver bullet: here we spoke about the relevance of risk management and compliance metrics and how financial services firms are creating a dashboard of indicators that allow senior management to keep a check on activity. The process of deciding which indicators to include on the dashboard is a time-consuming necessity.
  • Relevance: the idea is that km indicators should be negotiated with the senior management at the start of a knowledge management strategy & implementation plan formation. Measurements should be relevant to the business and meaningful. They should go hand in glove with the other organizational performance initiatives such as Balanced Scorecard or LEAN.
  • Qualitative and Quantitative indicators should go hand in hand: numbers tell only part of the tale. It’s not enough to count the number of retweets you need to know what the narrative around those retweets are.

Articles by Others

  • KM Professionals Respond: Creating Content People Actually Want by Mercy Harper
  • A Different Way to Acquire Lessons Learned in Knowledge Management by Lauren Trees
  • Developing effective collaborative knowledge spaces by Conrad Taylor
  • Paul Corney — a very worthy winner of the 2019 K&IM Walford Award by Denise Carter
  • The K&IM Walford Award by CILIP — Awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of Knowledge Management and/or Information Management. In 2019 The Walford Award is sponsored by CB Resourcing. The 2019 Award Winner is Paul Corney, Knowledge et al. Paul Corney is a well-respected Knowledge Management (KM) expert and guru and has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge management services. Paul is dedicated to improving professional recognition of KM. He has been selfless in his support of CILIP in its aim of becoming the UK and International professional body for KM. He is committed and tireless in promoting CILIP’s initiatives not only in the UK but also abroad — particularly in the Far and Middle East where he is recognized as a KM leader and has a high profile. Paul has worked as CILIP K&IM Ambassador since end of 2017. He has worked tirelessly with CILIP to realize the K&IM Chartership as a valid option for professional registration for information professionals. He is always willing himself to mentor and nurture others in their KM work. He is always on the lookout for opportunities where CILIP can demonstrate its role in the KM sector.
  • New CILIP President and President-Elect appointed for 2020 by Gus MacDonald — Paul Corney is a globally-recognized leader in the field of Knowledge Management. He is Managing Partner of Knowledge et al, a specialist consultancy based in Eastbourne. Paul currently works with CILIP as a Global Ambassador for the new Knowledge Management Chartership program. He has worked with leading institutions, companies and governments worldwide. Commenting on his appointment as President-Elect, Paul said, “There is a tremendous opportunity for our professional community to articulate a new role at the heart of our organizations, ensuring that they can capitalize on the knowledge they hold to drive success. As President Elect and a Global Ambassador for CILIP’s Knowledge Management Chartership, I am pleased to be able to lead this important work. I will be working hard to support Professor Broady-Preston in her role as President and I look forward to meeting and engaging with CILIP members throughout the year.” Paul will succeed Professor Broady-Preston as President in 2021.



SIKM Leaders Community


The Story of the KM Cookbook


  1. The KM Cookbook: why & how we wrote it
  2. Review by Martin White
  3. Review by Bruce Boyes
  4. Other Reviews

My Review: Chris Collison, Paul Corney, and Patricia Eng have written a practical and easy-to-understand guide to knowledge management. The KM Cookbook combines a helpful explanation of ISO 30401 — the first international KM standard — with methods, tools, and stories to support successfully implementing KM. It uses the clever metaphor of a restaurant to describe the KM standard, tools, and stakeholders. The KM Chef’s Canvas is included as a useful tool to assess KM programs applying the new standard.

  1. Review by Madanmohan Rao
  2. Review by Jerry Brong
  3. Review by Martin White
  4. Review by Nancy White
  5. Review by Patrick Lambe

This is an unparalleled distillation of learning and wisdom from multiple continents and organization types, on how to go about implementing KM. It should be required reading for KM practitioners (and consultants), those who are new and those who want to reflect on their practice.




Stan Garfield

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