Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…
What is it that your company wants to know?
What exists within your people that compels you to engage with KM processes in order to access it?
Recently, I posed a question as to what it is that organisations are trying to manage when they say that they are engaging in KM? It is a challenging question to answer. The fallback response always seemed to be ‘tacit’ and ‘explicit’ knowledge. Fair enough, how do you operationalise this? Put that in front of a line manager tomorrow morning and tell her/him that they are now being appraised on their ability to contribute to the organisation’s tacit and/or explicit knowledge processes. This might be going a bit too far, as many organisations do not actually appraise employees on their knowledge contributions to the organisations, but that is another blog for another day.
Going off on a slight tangent, one that has been stimulated by a couple of responses to my last blog; we could have a fundamental debate about the definition of tacit versus explicit and whether explicit knowledge actually exists. Perhaps we are actually only speaking of information and knowledge when we speak in these terms?
Knowledge as an object, ostensibly explicit knowledge, exists as part of the resource based view of the organisaiton – a view that advocates the treatment of knowledge as an object; a view that permeates KM literature as a result of Nonaka’s manipulation of Polanyi and his subsequent SECI concept that advocates the transition between the questionable registers of tacit and explicit. This has been taken by technology KM activists as a mantle to promote technology based KM solutions – solutions that just do not exist. Knowledge is a complex concept, something that complicated techno-centric solutions just cannot handle.
This leads us to the knowledge based view of the firm, where knowledge is embedded through concepts such as the Learning Organisation and Organisational Learning. This is the home of KM. If we accept the needs of KM as being driven by the needs of the knowledge economy, then we agree that KM has to answer to the advancement of the dynamic capacity of the organisation. If we agree to that, then we also agree that KM is facilitated by people enabled by technology – enabled by technology, not solved by technology. This produces dynamic organisations operating with a complex knowledge environment – the resource based view leans more towards static organisation, operating with a complicated knowledge environment.
What am I ultimately getting at here? I actually don’t believe that organisations who advocate a resource based view of knowledge, or the view of knowledge as an object, or explicit knowledge management, are actually addressing the needs of the knowledge economy. I also do not believe that they are actually practicing KM, but that is just my opinion.
Now, getting back on track… So, what is it that KM is actually managing? For us it is six key concepts:
These are what we have found to be the six critical things that need to be ‘managed’, I use the term loosely, by organisations if they are to see success in KM projects. Now, is that clearer than ‘tacit’ and ‘explicit’? Does this give a clearer direction for organisational KM processes and, in doing so, does it better enable success? We believe that the answer is, yes!
Tell us what you think…
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