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The Borg have arrived! International Knowledge Management Standards and Accreditation Association

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.

10 comments on “The Borg have arrived! International Knowledge Management Standards and Accreditation Association

  1. Marcus
    July 7, 2012


    Having read the linkedin discussion I find it hard to disagree with your objections to either Matthews aim or approach and your Borg-classification is funny and apt.

    But, is the KM world so fragile thought leaders such as you and dave S need to jump on a guy trying to boost his reputation in a competitive job market?

    • David Griffiths
      July 7, 2012

      Hi Marcus. Genuinely, I have no problem with Matthews attempts to improve his prospects in the job market. At the same time, I’m finding it hard to hide my irritation. Where I have a problem is the idea of this international standards and accreditation body being formed with such little care and consideration. As KMers we often fight a tough fight within organisations and this type of ‘shoot from the hip’ approach just doesn’t do us any good. I am not taking aim at Matthew as a KMer, but when someone puts themselves out there as the international champion of KM standards then I would hope that they are coming to the table with a credible position.

  2. Md Santo
    July 8, 2012


    I agree with you 100%. The dynamic of KM development is open ended process which should be known by means of “pre – durante – post spatio temporale” considering that Knowledge always acting as subject having consciousness as well as animate and strikingly different with Data as well as Information which just acting as object with no consciousness. The other issue that should have solution is the fact that DIKW continuum model is just human artifact and most of us as KMers still being trapped within current DIKW domain. Therefore we need very systematic global consideration to developing KM standard and the most important for the sake of KM education it should be formative rather than just normative standard!

    Herewith and considering your position within Organisational Knowledge and Learning consultant/researcher/speaker based at Managing Director of K3-Cubed Limited, I’d like to contribute and sharing my Knowledge achievement as follow : – “Time Line of Mobee Knowledge Services – (April 2012 edition)” – “Brief summary of our work (2008 – 2012) : Decomposing Knowledge Management model framework for the benefit of (Basic) Sciences”

  3. Stephen Bounds
    July 8, 2012

    Hi David,

    I only read the LinkedIn thread a few hours after all the excitement had died down, but tend to agree with your and Dave Snowden’s assessment.

    I also have a more prosaic concern: what, exactly, could we standardise on at this point in KM’s history? I completed a Masters degree in KM in 2006 and pretty much the first thing I did once I finished and started talking more with active practitioners in the field was to throw out everything I had learnt! Not because it was wrong, as such, just that thinking had moved on.

    And similarly my views in 2012 are almost unrecognisable from those I held in 2007. That old saying, “premature optimisation is the root of all evil” applies here. I could get behind a body that promotes a more rigorous tracking and testing of results from applying or researching KM, but not a “standard”. We’re WAY too young for that.

    (Imagine if someone had decided the “standard” for being an engineer was a person who knew how to use the pulley, lever, and Archimedes’ screw!)

  4. Glenn Behenna
    July 8, 2012

    Hi David,

    Coming on here this morning, it’s good to find that that my thoughts on providing my initial two penny worth of response are already mirrored here. Like Marcus I found your comments both funny and apt. Like Stephen’s reflection, I to have found that even within a few years of being involved in KM as a practitioner in Wales, that the KM thinking and perceptions are constantly evolving (the only constant being change).
    So thanks David for shouting from a Welsh rooftop with a high degree of commonsense.

    Best wishes,

  5. You guys make me so tired and sad…

    This whole post looks to me as if you be in a snit. Sorry, David! They didn’t ask me either, although I assume me to be the guy with the most comprehensive overview about the market, still doing his homework. Yes, the market. Cause it’s all business driven without following the principles you preach – trust, transparency, sharing, open, etc. And that’s the problem of the KM guys. Whom should I trust? You, offering certificates, Dave Snowden offering accreditation courses, the guys who are supposed to be though leaders in the field but don’t behave like this, or the IKMSAA guys who nobody knows? You have commercial interests that come first, before helping prospective students to make the right choice. Isn’t that true? So it may be better for me to make my own thing instead of getting more tired and sad about you guys – I drop the thought! (as recommended by the Dalai Lama).

    Let me cite a piece of your earlier posts:

    “However, even here, we do not have an industry standard. There is no agreement on curriculum content or even exactly how KM should be operationalised in an organisation.

    I might be expecting too much and I am happy to accept accusations of idealism, when perhaps I should be pragmatic, but knowledge will continue to be a vital resource for organisations and, therefore, this issue will not go away. A lack of consensus on content and standards across academic and professional bodies breeds inertia and that just doesn’t seem good enough. Institutions such as Kent State appear to be moving the field in the right direction. However, until we find an acceptable professional benchmark qualification for our field, there is an ongoing risk to the credibility of operational KM.” (source:

    What have you done so far to make your idealistic view come true?

    Just be curious, you know about the Knowledge Management Education Forum and what they are doing? Why don’t you argue against their initiative? It’s a US thing (was only supposed to be an international one) and out of the US these guys are not known very well.

    Sunny regards from South-western Germany
    Boris – “Curiosity is the beginning of all learning!”

    • David Griffiths
      July 8, 2012

      Boris, who have they consulted in Germany?

      It is a case of who to trust, as being credible and trustworthy in this field is important. In the blog you refer to, I was criticising organisations who can take anybody off the street and in a single week turn them in to ‘Certified KMers – we can debate where the problem lies, the person who believes that they are ‘certified’ or the organisations accepting that they are certified, but it is a poor state of affairs.

      You ask, do I help students to make the right choice? Yes, I do.
      You ask what I have done to facilitate change. Our work on PG KM courses/PDCs is built on the premise that people should become their own problem solvers, we start with understanding environmental scanning and ask them to build their rationale for action from there; we don’t take KM as the point of departure, we development an argument for it to act as a response to strategic/operational need (see here: Everything we present is critically researched and is supported by a strong evidence base. It is subject to internal and external verification and is subject to the same scrutiny as any of the University’s post graduate courses. We publish almost everything free of charge and try to be as transparent as possible, in order to facilitate the transfer of practice. That, for me, is a start.

      The credibility of one-week ‘certified KMers’ will continue to impact our field. I have stated numerous times that I am all for change, see this post. However, coming to the table and announcing that you are the new international body for KM standards and accreditation, without establishing your own BOK and therefore not being able to respond to basic exploratory questions, well, yes, that gets my goat. Inviting people to engage and then insulting them, that just doesn’t make sense. Ignoring thought leaders with the experience necessary to make this work, doesn’t make sense. Claiming to be an international licensing and accreditation body and claiming not to have a commercial agenda, well I find that confounding.

      Regarding KEF, I arranged to meet with Dennise Bedford on four occasions, she never managed to make those meetings. If she had, and if she had informed me of this group as a course of action, I would have argued against it, as I have now.

      I am all for change, but this is not credible change at this point and, as such, could do a lot more damage than good.

      In the mean time, send some of that sun to Wales!

      • Hi David,

        hope it worked with sending sunshine from Germany to the rough country of the red dragon. I used my iPad 😉

        I have no idea who they have contacted in Germany but as I can see from the list of members there are some interestig faces from good old Europe in the group.

        For me it’s not important who they have consulted but who they will consult and who drops by. I’m sure they will listen to all the advice and other input. I see this as an emergent initiative with an open output. A brave initiative which deserves respect and not arrogant mockery (especially not from so called thought leaders). I know that they probably not gonna make it the way they think it would work but to explore this they created the group. And that’s good! At least it makes people think… And we all agree there is a problem with KM education and the whole KM community with it’s so called thought leaders (They all falied to bring it forward, don’t they?).

        So an initiative from the bottom is not a wrong way. It would not harm that much if it fails than if KMEF led by GWU & Kent State would fail. Btw. I always miss thought leader Prof Stankosky’s involvement and contributions within this initiative (apart from Dave and your fight against the initiative – you now know about it).

        If a some day certification is good or bad is arguable (by yourself you’re offering something similar, one could say) but that’s not the point. There is a market/need for that and people are attending certification courses. The point is to fight against the charlatans in the market who proclaim the de facto standard by numbers that are wrong and that are simply a marketing fake. The point is to fight against the charlatans who sell and will sell their training as certification under the non-for-profit umbrella of an association or a society. And therefore such a KM (education) standards and accreditation association is an appropriate institution. It’s also a good sign for employers to see that s.o. takes care of the KM education mass. And for prospective students it coud serve as a kind of counceling institution. And that’s my vision for the KMeduHub and the inofficial IKMEAA I initiated, still doing my homework.

        Have a good (hopefully dry) start into the new week

  6. Pingback: The Borg have arrived! International Knowledge Management Standards and Accreditation Association | Knowledge Sharing |

  7. Helen Clegg
    July 16, 2012

    Thank you for drawing attention to this potential new association as I wasn’t aware of it. I have to say that I don’t like the idea of such an association, mainly because from my perspective there isn’t even a widely accepted and agreed definition of knowledge management – yet. In fact, I really don’t believe that knowledge can be managed. For me, the term knowledge management is an oxymoron. However I believe that we can enable people in organizations to share and transfer knowledge by providing them with a set of tools to do this, including storytelling and encouraging conversations – technology alone is not the answer. So for me, it’s about knowledge enablement, not knowledge management – and to reinforce this, my job title no longer has the term management in it!
    Helen Clegg
    Knowledge Team Director, A.T. Kearney Procurement & Analytic Solutions

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