Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…
Another week and another surprise in the KM world. A new self-proclaimed world licensing and accreditation body have announced themselves, the International Knowledge Management Standards & Accreditation Association.
They are based out of the United States and have unveiled themselves in order to “make it more clear that this is not another competing KM group, but a consolidation of all KM groups as far as Standards & Accreditation are concerned”. Wow! I had no idea. There go all my years of research. None of the Higher Education Institutions in the UK or EU, that I work with, were asked to contribute or consolidate and therefore I assume that our work is inconsequential. Out of nowhere comes a group that is going to govern our field, license us to practice and accredit us as Knowledge Managers (after all, I am a practitioner first and an academic second). I naively assumed that this group would engage with leading lights in the KM field, top minds, people who have served this field for almost 30 years. No, that would be silly. Apparently they were “eliminated from discussion”, their words, not mine, because they have an established bias and would attempt to polarise the international KM community through their views; not that they do this anyway, being global thought leaders! A second reason for this “elimination” was because they have conflicting commercial interests; not that a world governing body for KM, or the individuals involved, would have any commercial interests. Not only that, are they starting small, scaling failure? Don’t be ridiculous. This is to be assimilation on a global scale; everyone from KPMG to an IT start-up in Rio…someone might want to point them to the failure associated with ‘grand plan’ projects; after all, even the Borg were defeated.
Right, so let’s take the best KMers in the world and “eliminate” them because they have conflicting views or commercial interests. “Eliminate” thousands of years of collective learning because they might disrupt the thinking of this new global KM police force. I have to state here and now that I have obviously been getting KM wrong and I apologise to everyone who has ever listened to me. I thought this was a complex domain where we actively sought out variety to combat variety. I didn’t realise that the aim was to limit variety. I can only fall on my sword and resign from the KM brother/sisterhood. Apparently, according to this group. we need to get all global organisations conforming to a single worldview. But don’t dare to question how this will happen. It will just happen and resistance is futile. Sensible but probing questions will be met with derision and insults – branding people as “sulking sulkers” or “prima donnas” (remember, resistance is futile). Either that or the Welsh rugby playing KM voices of the world get asked to pipe down – someone should have told them that Wales just won the Grandslam and we might know a thing or two about success! Who needs credibility… David Snowden summed it up with a John Steinbeck quote, “No one wants advice, only corroboration” (take a look at David’s blog: ‘You can’t create a craft by committee‘ – good read).
So, these leading lights, these newly self-appointed governors of all that is KM in the world, how do they define what a Knowledge Manager is; after all it can encompass everything from data management to corporate knowledge resource management (think everything from data bases to communities of practice to environmental scanning to decision-making support)? Apparently they are not going to. Hang on. We’re about to set benchmark standards for our field, govern the boundaries for KM practice, police the teaching, assessment and learning offered in KM courses, and we can’t define what a Knowledge Manager is? Okay…. is it just me or does that seem ridiculous. What is good practice in teaching, learning and assessment in KM training; after all we are going to be licensed/accredited by this group? What do they dis/like about current practice? They haven’t decided yet…
KM has a history. It has emerged over the last 100 years through Industrial Efficiency Engineers, through the Science of Knowledge Utilisation to the field we currently call KM. KM as a domain is certainly not perfect, it is too aligned with IT and needs to reinvent itself to meet the modern needs of dynamic, agile and adaptive organisations. So, is that what this group is about. No. They are going to gather consensus about what KM should be by asking a global audience (or at least those on Facebook or LinkedIn), with no thought for research methods (for example, bias in the sample pool). No, this is to be about action. They’re going to leave that academic mumbo jumbo behind. Even pragamatists like myself acknowledge the need for commensurability between action and the methodology needed for trustworthy and credible evidence-based action. Has this group conducted extensive research into the global business/social environment to establish the need? No. Apparently validity has no place in their thinking at this stage. Not to worry, assimilation doesn’t require credible or trustworthy action, it requires force of will; after all, that’s what assimilation is about. So, the plan, announce yourselves as the new governing body, but don’t put forward a mandate, wait for popular consensus, gain funding and then ‘sell’ licensing/accreditation services to the largest market – Got it! But this isn’t about commercial activities. No, this is altruism. Not my words, theirs.
Stopping the sarcasm, this is not what this field needs at this time; neither the sarcasm or the current version of the IKMSAA. I am all for change, we need it. Our field is built on change, look to the past for the evidence. But this new self-proclaimed international KM police force has not done its homework. Where is the value in what they are doing, is it based on the needs of today or are they shaping the future; quality or excellence? They can’t tell us. What are the global problems for KM practice, teaching, learning and assessment? They can’t tell us, though they have spoken to a few US based practitioners and training organisations. They maintain a position that LinkedIn is global consultation. They maintain that they want to hear the ideas of the top thought leaders. To me it seems like lip service. On the one hand they have “eliminated” them and on the other hand they want their advice…confusion reigns.
I, as much as anybody else who ploughs a furrow in this field, want to see a credible and trustworthy movement for change. This, for me, is just not it. On the bright side, by the time they get their act together KM will have moved on and their solutions will be obsolete.