Excellent (the post below).
Why? Because there's no mention of blogs, wikis, social networks, Enterprise 2.0 or the dreaded "KM Architecture" (there might be one or more - but it is not an IT architecture in the traditional sense - I would consider a patterns-based argument for KM though). Technology is the tail wagging the dog when it comes to knowledge management - it always has been. Many of the failures of the KM hype of the nineties were a result of the exuberant belief that KM was a tooling problem (e.g., search, content management, portals... the list goes on and on). Clearly technology has a role - a vital role in many situations. I am not anti-technology when it comes to KM - it's just that almost all my conversations with clients over the years have been anchored to a tooling discussion. It began with search and content management systems, then portals, and now it's rooted in social software (if one limits social software to blogs, wikis, tags/bookmarks, feeds and social networking).
Technology helps people discover, filter, aggregate, connect and so on. Arraying technology in a poor fashion can undermine KM efforts. If arrayed effectively, technology can have a tremendous positive influence on KM efforts. But even if you execute well on the technology side of the equation, tools are still only enablers to help people and organizations attain the goals of KM that they have defined for themselves (e.g., at a personal, group or enterprise level).
There is a certain level of know-how involved in getting technology to properly augment KM efforts - but the more challenging barriers are the people and organizational factors that remain regardless of the tools involved. Some of the latest blog and twitter conversation threads on KM vs. social computing or KM vs. Enterprise 2.0 or KM vs. social-anything miss that subtle point. Some KM practitioners put the ratio at 90/10, others 80/20 (role split between non-technology to technology elements that comprise KM). Whichever ratio you want to hang onto - all of them are dwarfed by the non-technology elements.
From time to time over the years you do hear issues raised re: tacit vs. explicit (wrong focus, see below), centralized KM vs. decentralized KM (a balance of both is needed in my experience - the degree of emphasis between the two is contectually unique to that organization), and KM tools (there are none - tools are not defacto KM - it's a how used, not what is issue).
So I find it very refreshing to come across posts like this:
Back to First Principles for Knowledge Management
1. We don’t know how we know what we know, or make decisions; and therefore unwittingly misrepresent what we know when asked to describe the process. Lakoff claims that understanding “takes place in terms of entire domains of experience and not in terms of isolated concepts.” He shows how these experiences are a product of:
- Our bodies (perceptual and motor apparatus, mental capacities, emotional makeup, etc.)
- Our interactions with our physical environment (moving, manipulating objects, eating, etc.)
- Our interactions with other people within our culture (in terms of social, political, economic, and religious institutions) p.117
Gompert, et al., examined the dual roles of information and intuition in decision-making in their investigation into how to increase “battle wisdom” for U.S. forces. Asking General Patton how he made the decisions he did will not prepare you to respond similarly in like circumstances.
Snowden puts it this way:
There is an increasing body of research data which indicates that in the practice of knowledge people use heuristics, past pattern matching and extrapolation to make decisions, coupled with complex blending of ideas and experiences that takes place in nanoseconds. Asked to describe how they made a decision after the event they will tend to provide a more structured process oriented approach which does not match reality.
The brain constantly receives new inputs and needs to store some of them in the same head already occupied by previous experiences. It makes sense of its world by trying to connect new information to previously encountered information, which means that new information routinely resculpts previously existing representations and sends the re-created whole back for new storage. What does this mean? Merely that present knowledge can bleed into past memories and become intertwined with them as if they were encountered together. Does that give you only an approximate view of reality? You bet it does. p.130
2. We learn through fragmented input and internal cognitive patterns, embedding extensive context from our environment at the time of learning. Medina, discussing the work of Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel (2000), relates how the brain rewires itself.
Kandel showed that when people learn something, the wiring in their brain changes. He demonstrated that acquiring even simple pieces of information involves the physical alteration of the structure of the neurons participating in the process. p.57
Fauconnier and Turner discuss cognition - in part - in terms of guiding principle for completing patterns, as humans seek to blend new concepts onto what they already know.
Pattern Completion Principle: Other things being equal, complete elements in the blend by using existing integrated patterns as additional inputs. Other things being equal, use a completing frame that has relations that can be the compressed versions of the important outer-space vital relations between the inputs. p.328
Brown, et al, take on traditional teaching methods in their work showing that “knowledge is situated, being in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used.”
The activity in which knowledge is developed and deployed, it is now argued, is not separable from or ancillary to learning and cognition. Nor is it neutral. Rather, it is an integral part of what is learned. Situations might be said to co-produce knowledge through activity. Learning and cognition, it is now possible to argue, are fundamentally situated.
The context within which something is learned cannot be reduced to information metadata - it is an integral part of what is learned.
3. We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down. For my third principle, I am borrowing directly from Dave Snowden’s extension of Polanyi. (Snowden’s blog should be at the top of your KM reading list):
The process of taking things from our heads, to our mouths (speaking it) to our hands (writing it down) involves loss of content and context. It is always less than it could have been as it is increasingly codified.
Having read through the first two principles, it should now be evident that relating what we know via conversation or writing or other means of “making explicit” removes integral context, and therefore content. Explicit knowledge is simply information - lacking the human context necessary to qualify it as knowledge. Sharing human knowledge is a misnomer, the most we can do is help others embed inputs as we have done so that they may approach the world as we do based on our experience. This sharing is done on many levels, in many media, and in contexts as close to the original ones so that the experience can approximate the original.