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The Future of KM – Video Blog

8 comments on “The Future of KM – Video Blog

  1. Robert Narejko
    August 9, 2012

    Good Vlog David!

    I agree people don’t want to talk KM. They want to solve THEIR business problems by hook or by crook.

    The focus for us is on providing solutions that help a company innovate and collaborate. To enable our solutions we rely on the three legged stool of 1) Technology 2) Process and 3) People. The first two items are relatively easy compared to the third, which you discuss.

    Change management is the key to success. If the people (users) don’t adopt the solution and make it part of their everyday lives, then we have failed our client. We spend significant time and energy to ensure that the client is ready to adopt the change, they are trained, they know where to go for help, the change will work with the organizational structure and that we have measurements in place (that align with corporate strategy) to ensure we can define ‘success’ and to adapt our strategies if needed.

    • David Griffiths
      August 9, 2012

      Hi Robert,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. You can probably see from my blogs/articles that I totally agree with you.

      The one thing I would add is that when organisations consider people, they often miss the needs of the individual/group/team – solutions, for me, need to include the needs of the individual, the needs of the organisation and the processes that bind the two together.

      You’ll see from my latest blog and keynote that I am currently focused on HR and how people contribute to the organisation’s dynamic/agile/adaptive capacity…this requires a change of mindset, not only from the management teams within organisations, but from HR professionals themselves.



  2. john verdon
    January 20, 2013

    How can one talk about process and say it’s not technology? If people are the heart of KM then perhaps we should stop de-humanizing people through the reification of knowledge as commodity – if it’s about people the KM is managing people.

    Nothing in this blog discusses the wicked problem that managing people/knowledge presents to the organization. The single greatest failure is the KM does not challenge the management paradigm but seeks to support existing monocentric decisioning structures rather than understand that people/knowledge management p/km requires new paradigms of organizational governance.

    This cannot be done without the technology of the digital environment. Without this change of technology (remember humans shape tools and tools shape humans – to be human is to be a tool user, is to be enhanced with technology, including the technology of language, culture, writing, etc.) one remains captured in feudal hierarchic architectures of control – essentially manufacturing machines can only function by transforming people in to cogs. This by definition is not concerned with an holistic appreciation of the full people/knowledge (human capital) in their enterprise but only with cog-like capacity to produces the functional requirements of a job/position/cog-in-the-machine.

    Only with the technology of the digital environment can we conceive of a governance system that enables the generation and assemblage of people/knowledge networks as and when needed to use people/knowledge to its optimum. What is necessary is technology that enables organizations to link the right persons to the right situations at the right time.

    To phrase this in a McLuhan-esque way:

    If the digital environment is the medium, then social computing is the message entailing that modes of production must become programmable.

    A medium is anything that extends the human, the message is the change in pace, scale, scope, pattern the the medium produces. Programmable modes of production rest on the ability/agility to generate/assemble people/knowledge networks as and when needed.

    The future of people/knowledge management p/km is new forms of governance architecture that enable participatory cultures of self-organization as a type of constrained – complex adaptive system. The future of p/km is not pandering to existing organizational architectures of control/hierarchy.

    • David Griffiths
      January 20, 2013

      Hi John…

      Wow, quite a lot to cover here on an old blog, so bear with me…

      Process does not have to mean technology (soft systems methodology?), for example, Action Learning groups are built on processes for knowledge generation, but do not necessarily have anything to do with technology. I agree that KM is about managing people…see the numerous blogs and professional journal articles that I have written on the topic (but also it does not mean that knowledge can be externalised and moved via technology) – also, see my latest video ‘why, and what is, KM’

      The video blog was not designed to address the issue of people management, but you will find lots of articles and blogs on this site that do address this issue, and from multiple perspectives (e.g. the implications of human agency).

      Technology is an enabler, but if you are suggesting that people cannot be managed without technology, or that KM cannot take place without technology, then you are mistaken (can I not show you what I know – face-to-face – on the job training – apprenticeships – aspects of VET) – perhaps take a look at our work on Knowledge Environments (KEn Diagram) and what that means for the way in which you approach and manage knowledge resources. Also, see our work on the resilience proposition of the minimum and the complexity value proposition – human agency and wholism feature heavily.

      You seem to speak in terms of knowledge existing as an object, at least that is what I am picking up from your comments, and, if so, I would argue that you have a limited view of what a knowledge resource is – again, see our work on the KEn Diagram.

      I do not think I have ever said that KM should focus on control or the augmentation of existing hierarchies — see any of our work on complexity/resilience from the last year.

  3. john verdon
    January 20, 2013

    Hi David,

    Don’t mean to be snarky – but I’m no beginner to KM, I’ve been around KM for awhile.

    So first – soft systems methodology is a technology – even though it arose from engineers thinking they were inventing something new – rather than repackaging social sciences.

    Technology is not limited to hardware/software. Birds build nests, ants farm aphids to harvest the mould they grow, evolution includes a ‘selection mechanism’. When we invented language (one can argue that was he first software to our wetware) that enabled the externalization of an inner imaginal space as well as the means to accelerate symbol processing, with language came technologies of culture (memes and practices and institutions) that provided ‘increasing returns’ in how we coordinate outselves. When we invented the technology of writing we externalized our memory (Plato railed that writing would destroy our memory – which it did while expanding what we could remember).

    So technology includes social institutions, organizational architectures, language, processes, concepts – all these extend the human mind. The best book right now on technology (I think) is Kevin Kelly’s “What Technology Wants”

    Language as a communication technology enables more intense and complex communicative exchanges – refining the basic foundation of mammalian communication (e.g. see G. Bateson). Involved with the technologies of the digital environment are the necessary individual and social SKA’s that can leverage what the technologies enable. Humans shape tools that shape humans.

    So traditional KM tries to enact the management of knowledge but accepts the assumptions of being embedded within the current technology of the ‘Firm’ (see R. Coase). This technology is further presupposed on what Eleanor Ostrom called mono-centric decision-making structures – where decisions are processed via a hierarchy of decision-makers. (see Yaneer Bar Yam – New England Complexity Studies Institute, for the limits of complexity that this hierarchic technology can handle).

    The technology of the digital environment collapses the economic rationale for the traditional organizational architecture of the ‘Firm’ (e.g. Coase). Examples abound, from Wikipedia, to the games of science (e.g. Zooniverse, FoldIt, eteRNA, etc.), problem-solving/innovation (e.g. grand-challenges, Innocentive,’s Mechanical Turks, etc.) micro-financing to micro-funding (e.g. KickStarter). Essentially the technologies of digital environment enables new participative architectures, institutions, designs for how work can get done.

    As J.S. Brown and J. Hagel (Power of Pull), Chia & Hold (Strategy Without Design) and Gartner research (the trend to increasing amounts of non-routine work, which means that there is an increase in one-of types of problems and thus no ‘process’ – people must increasingly ‘improvise to solve problems – in fact every solution generates a new field of problems. 🙂 As organizations must become increasing networked, in order to deal with the increasing salience of ‘wicked problems’ that can only be adapted to via trans-organizational networks – there is no solution – only ongoing solutioning.

    Thus if we are serious that knowledge lives in the minds of people then the future of people/knowledge management is not about fitting people into jobs – but about design work for each individual that optimises not only what they know – but harnesses ther intrinsic motivation (e.g. D. Pink) – the only way that people can keep up with the lifelong learning that is the product and driver of accelerating innovation. (for an excellent account of three types of tacit knowledge and the vital importance and complexity of ‘collective tacit knowledge’ see Harry Collins “Tacit and Explicit Knowledge” – he greatly extends the work of Polanyi).

    The technologies, conditions and affordances of the digital environment are the only way that knowledge in the minds of people (e.g. full human capital) can become the core value of concern. Furthermore if we take Snowden’s principles of KM the first says that knowledge can’t be coerced but must be volunteered.

    We are beginning to see the new forms of organizational architectures in such companies as “Morningstar” (see Gary Hamel’s HBR article “First Fire All the Managers” and ‘Valve” see the Valve Handbook for New Employees

    The architectures of participation (see Jenkins MIT Confronting the Challenges
    of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the21st Century ) involves a shift to self-directed collaboration, self-organized approaches enabling people to be free to contribute their knowledge where it can generate the most value and to be pulled by others to contribute the knowledge they have that others need.

    Any structure that thinks it can do this via a management hierarchy will simply incur transaction costs that engender a form of organizational arthritis as well as increasing opportunity costs because of an increasing inability to seize/generate opportunity in line with the turbulence of the operational environment.

    Fundamentally People/Knowledge require a governance approach enabling participation, self-directed collaboration as and when needed in a way that is not transactionally expensive (as traditional management approaches are in the digital environment).

    • David Griffiths
      January 20, 2013

      John… you continue to argue that KM (acquisition, storage (embedding), use and generation of knowledge) cannot exist without technology…we must agree to disagree – perhaps it is our definition of KM and knowledge that is hindering the discourse?

      Without being snarky back, I do not doubt your experience, but that does not mean that your argument is always valid. I ask that before you jump into lecturing me, read a bit more about what I am about. I do not think it will benefit either of us to pontificate over our world views, but, in case you are interested, my PhD thesis on modern KM, models and application is free to download from the resources section of this blog, which should provide an interesting counter to many of your comments above…a basic conversation on the externalisation of memory, links to DIKW, SECI and the Resource Based View of the firm could be very interesting (my suggestion being that there is a potential bias in your thinking that could have a significant impact on KM system design – you might want to read my blog on the problem with DIKW). Dave Snowden believes that knowledge cannot be conscripted, not coerced…do organisations not attempt to do exactly that through the policies and procedures they develop throughout the HR cycle? Coercion can include a false state of value alignment, can it not? Does coercion include empowerment? Perhaps coercion is more nuanced than we think and is not as Snowden states, conscription.

      I am happy to spend time dissecting arguments, but when you seem more interested in lecturing me then I am not sure where to start. For example, you say, “people must increasingly ‘improvise to solve problems – in fact every solution generates a new field of problems” – I agree, try reading this: I also agree one the alignment of values…I talk a lot about the needs of the individual, the needs of the organisation and the processes that bind, especially in developing organisational resilience. Organisational structure as a construct for consideration within a KM system, totally agree – see the research I cited in my last response. People at the core of KM systems, I’ve written extensively on this, totally agree.

      My point is, except for the disagreement on whether KM can exist without technology (and your assumptions on my definition of technology…we could even debate each others definition of ‘process), which, being honest, is practically moot in today’s business environment, I am not sure what your point is, other than to establish your position. What is it exactly that you disagree with me on?

  4. john verdon
    January 21, 2013


    I’ve tried to be clear about the definition of technology. That even process is a technology. But I don’t understand at all how we can make the best use of a person’s knowledge without a technology of search, connection, collaboration. Without these forms of technology we are reduced to either working in small groups/companies – where everyone is capable of doing most of what everyone else is doing, This is often a great environment to work in – but small groups have trouble with fostering a wide range of specialist knowledge. The other alternative is large organizations with a wide range of specialist divisions of labour. But this tends to force people into a ‘job’ defined by narrow responsibilities. Without the technology to search and connect – how can someone efficiently/effectively access the person with the knowledge.

    You were clear in the video that ‘information’ is not knowledge. Totally agree. But to harness the right person with the right knowledge for the right situation – we need the means to search and connect – don’t we? At minimum this is the technology of a common language – the technology of a common culture (As Douglass North indicates institutions that embody common language, culture, purpose provide increasing returns). But the transaction cost embedded in the traditional organization structure are now increasingly high in relation to what we see in the real world now. For me this is evident in the decade of accomplishments of Wikipedia (where people are free to contribute what they know) versus the last decade of Encyclopaedia Britannica. I know you must know this I’m not trying to lecture, I’m trying to point out that the difference is that Wikipedia represents a better model of KM enable by the digital environment and Britannica represents attempts to do KM without ‘technology’ (as I feel you might understand it). If really relevant KM could be implemented without technology wouldn’t we see Britannica flourishing? The culture of both organizations, the way knowledge is enabled, harnessed, the organizational architecture of both are radically different. Could the accomplishments of Wikepedia have been obtained by simply implementing KM at Britannica (maintaining it organizational architecture)? Surely Britannica is motivated, surely it understands itself as a knowledge organization – even as a learning organization. What is the future of KM at Britannica? Is there a future without the technologies of the digital environment?

    Perhaps the problem is that many KM practitioners must serve incumbent leader/managers – which presents a wicked problem of telling the emperor the real situation without getting fired – but in this case it might be more than that the emperor has no clothes, but also no longer has the job he thought he had.

    Finally apologies, for snark, for lecturing, for inadvertent insult. My attitude is directed to the whole field and from the ultimate failure of very sincere organizations (i work for one) who understand the value of knowledge and learning to change their use of people from cogs in a machine to knowledge workers in a knowledge network operating via networked individualism and responsible autonomy. Layers of supervision and management seem to be the ‘firewall’ that prevents real people-centred harnessing of knowledge in minds from being implemented. At most I see the majority of people working in ‘jobs’ that harness a very small percentage of what they know because that is all the ‘job’ enables to be harnessed.

    • David Griffiths
      January 21, 2013

      John… You have to try listening at some point. I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that technology plays a significant part in today’s organisations (process can also be argued to be a cultural artefact, or are you saying that processes and therefore culture is a technological artefact? – If technology is an artefact of human knowledge (the searchings of human minds) then which came first, technology or knowledge (who imagined the technology to bring it into existence?). I help organisations make decisions when it comes to IT/digital strategy (see my LinkedIn references). You have said yourself that you have only read two of my blogs, and I keep asking you to stop shooting from the hip. Where we disagree, which I have already said is moot, is that KM can be (can, not must be) implemented without technology, but this flies in the face of the needs of the needs of today’s business environment. So I am not sure what the point of your argument is…I did not say in my video, nor have I ever said, that KM should ignore technology, I have always said, and maintain, that technology is an enabler for KM, so what is the problem?

So, what do you think?

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