What Good KM Looks Like, Why KM, Midwest KM Symposium, Here Comes Everybody

05-Mar-08 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Question of the Week

I participated in a best practice study for APQC and was asked this question: “If you were invited to give a keynote speech on knowledge management, what words of wisdom or lessons learned would you impart?” I posed this question to many KM thought leaders and will be featuring their answers here.

On February 26, 2008 I presented on a member audio conference for Pure Insight on Knowledge management systems: What makes a successful system? Also presenting was Arthur Shelley, former Global Technical Knowledge Director at Cadbury Schweppes and author of The Organizational Zoo: A Survival Guide to Workplace Behavior.

I asked Arthur if I could quote from his presentation, and he graciously agreed. Here are some of his key points.

Gradual change focused on people & behaviors

  • Knowledge Management is NOT Rocket Surgery
  • Have a clear vision aligned with business strategy
  • Communicate the vision and strategy widely
  • Find the pockets of excellence and leverage them
  • Generate some benefits to demonstrate why change is positive
  • Change people’s habits by demonstrating collaboration is better
  • Continue to grow a foundation aligned with business priorities, goals and objectives
  • Embed knowledge principles into everyday business activities
  • Constantly support ownership in the business

What does good KM look like?

  • People naturally collaborate and have extensive global networks
  • Leaders support their teams’ collaboration activities across business and with external parties
  • There is a high level of adaptation and adoption of other’s ideas
  • Sharing behavior is acknowledged and rewarded
  • Tools enable learning before, during and after activities and events
  • Networks and communities are self-sustaining and refresh knowledge as they complete projects and rotate leader and administrative roles
  • Community activities are driven by business needs and deliver benefits, both tangible and intangible
  • Knowledge behaviors are embedded into everyday business processes
  • Intellectual property is defined and made available for others to use
  • Learnings from change programs are captured and reused in, or adapted for, related future projects
  • Information and knowledge is constantly refreshed and easily accessed by appropriate parties

Key points for success

  • Focus on the people, bring them together, get them comfortable with each other and match behaviors
  • Create opportunities for collaboration on activities that deliver value and make their jobs easier
  • Show how the knowledge management activities align with business priorities and generate benefits
  • Build an identity around your knowledge program to get people to feel part of it
  • Communicate widely and often, especially success stories
  • Develop Knowledge Platforms and capabilities in background (Networks, Behaviors, Processes, Tools and Infrastructure)
  • Find senior sponsors and lead facilitators who can transfer ownership and build a self-supporting network
  • Introduce fun and social aspects to your teams

For more information on the Organizational Zoo, see Arthur’s web site.

KM Blog of the Week

Why Knowledge Management? by Doug Brockbank (other posts)

Knowledge management then is creating a culture of high trust where ideas can be shared, and feedback is encouraged. It’s also recognizing that personal ideas and suggestions aren’t marketable all by themselves. These opinions must be scrutinized, challenged and adapted so that the collective knowledge that results can lead to innovation, process improvement and profits. And correctly recognizing and reward these collective contributions may provide then the key incentive worker’s need to fully engage.

Again, it’s not so much what you know, but what you share that counts. Still, let’s not forget that “when done right”, knowledge management can definitely improve processes, lower costs and certainly strengthen morale — which must make it a core strategy of any business.

The holy grail, or “promise of the knowledge workplace”, may just be simpler than we thought. It’s not just about the culture, tools, and processes used (though these are all important factors).

Rather it may really be as simple as:

  • How well do you treat your employees? or
  • How much do you allow your knowledge workers to use the four parts of their unique nature — their heart, mind, body and spirit?
  • What is your value proposition for the knowledge worker to use their heart, mind, body and spirit in meaningful ways? and,
  • Are you willing to recognize and reward that contribution? And do your knowledge workers trust you to do so?

Only then can do you invite the knowledge worker’s passion.

As Covey says, neglect any of these dimensions and the person may comply, rebel or even quit. Nurture these qualities and your knowledge worker will cheerfully cooperate, feel heartfelt commitment and creatively innovate! That is real knowledge management!

KM Link of the Week

I helped to host this community gathering:


  • 9:00–10:30 Sharing breakthrough projects, creative practices, and wild ideas
  • 10:30–11:00 Networking Break
  • 11:00–12:30 Sharing missteps, mistakes, and misperceptions
  • 12:30–1:30 Networking Lunch
  • 1:30–3:00 Deep dive discussion on a topic chosen in advance
  • 3:00–3:30 Networking Break
  • 3:30–5:00 Collaborative peer assist on topics submitted in advance by attendees

KM Book of the Week

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky


A revelatory examination of how the wildfire-like spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill

A handful of kite hobbyists scattered around the world find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. A midwestern professor of Middle Eastern history starts a blog after 9/11 that becomes essential reading for journalists covering the Iraq war. Activists use the Internet and e-mail to bring offensive comments made by Trent Lott and Don Imus to a wide public and hound them from their positions. A few people find that a world-class online encyclopedia created entirely by volunteers and open for editing by anyone, a wiki, is not an impractical idea. Jihadi groups trade inspiration and instruction and showcase terrorist atrocities to the world, entirely online. A wide group of unrelated people swarms to a Web site about the theft of a cell phone and ultimately goads the New York City police to take action, leading to the culprit’s arrest.

With accelerating velocity, our age’s new technologies of social networking are evolving, and evolving us, into new groups doing new things in new ways, and old and new groups alike doing the old things better and more easily. You don’t have to have a MySpace page to know that the times they are a changin’. Hierarchical structures that exist to manage the work of groups are seeing their raisons d’être swiftly eroded by the rising technological tide. Business models are being destroyed, transformed, born at dizzying speeds, and the larger social impact is profound.

One of the culture’s wisest observers of the transformational power of the new forms of tech-enabled social interaction is Clay Shirky, and Here Comes Everybody is his marvelous reckoning with the ramifications of all this on what we do and who we are. Like Lawrence Lessig on the effect of new technology on regimes of cultural creation, Shirky’s assessment of the impact of new technology on the nature and use of groups is marvelously broad minded, lucid, and penetrating; it integrates the views of a number of other thinkers across a broad range of disciplines with his own pioneering work to provide a holistic framework for understanding the opportunities and the threats to the existing order that these new, spontaneous networks of social interaction represent. Wikinomics, yes, but also wikigovernment, wikiculture, wikievery imaginable interest group, including the far from savory. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.

Clay Shirky’s Book Blog

  • Cory Doctorow: Clay Shirky’s masterpiece — Clay’s book makes sense of the way that groups are using the Internet. Really good sense. In a treatise that spans all manner of social activity from vigilantism to terrorism, from Flickr to Howard Dean, from blogs to newspapers, Clay unpicks what has made some “social” Internet media into something utterly transformative, while other attempts have fizzled or fallen to griefers and vandals. Clay picks perfect anecdotes to vividly illustrate his points, then shows the larger truth behind them.
  • Russell Davies blogs all dog-eared pages — Here Comes Everybody goes beyond wild-eyed webby boosterism and points out what seems to be different about web-based communities and organization and why it’s different; the good and the bad. With useful and interesting examples, good stories and sticky theories. Very good stuff.
  • Eric Nehrlich’s Review — These newly possible activities are moving us towards the collapse of social structures created by technology limitations. Shirky compares this process to how the invention of the printing press impacted scribes. Suddenly, their expertise in reading and writing went from essential to meaningless. Shirky suggests that those associated with controlling the means to media production are headed for a similar fall.
  • Philip Young’s Review — Shirky has a piercingly sharp eye for the spotting the illuminating case studies — some familiar, some new — and using them to energize wider themes. His basic thesis is simple: “Everywhere you look groups of people are coming together to share with one another, work together, take some kind of public action.” The difference is that today, unlike even ten years ago, technological change means such groups can be form and act in new and powerful ways. Drawing on a wide range of examples Shirky teases out remarkable contrasts with what has been the expected logic, and shows quite how quickly the dynamics of reputation and relationships have changed.

Other Reviews



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

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Stan Garfield

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