When I first studied KM, I was introduced to concepts such as Nonaka´s SECI model, McElroy´s Knowledge Life Cycle, Wiig´s theory on people focused KM, I analyzed Tom Davenport´s “Working Knowledge, APQC´s “if we only knew what we know” and so many other books. Fact is, all this came out in the 90s. Go ahead and try to apply it in complex 2015 firms. Not easy, right?
Many things have changed since then, and I think this is the prime catalyst that gave way to a very interesting debate in Linkedin: “Do you agree with the end of Knowledge Management?” Various key practitioners in the KM world have contributed a word or two in the debate. To start off, I´d like to quote David Griffiths: “How many KM programs are still using LL or CoP methods from 20 years ago? I would argue that the legacy/techno-led form of KM is holding the field back and that KM, as it stands today, is reaching a tipping point where it needs to be disrupted and transitioned towards a focus on Knowledge Capability…” So true. In fact, just have a look at Tom Davenport´s webpage. See anything on KM?. Same happens with other authors!
This does not mean that they don’t believe in KM…it just means that the world is much more complex and KM alone will not provide an answer. So they turned the page in order to focus on new things…social media, big data, mobile technology, learning, Gen Y, millennials…. If you ask me whether I believe or not that KM is dying, no I don’t think so… but the methods are in urgent need of evolution. For example, I have tried capturing lessons learned using design thinking methods and paid more attention to the outcome, i.e. how do we apply them? This has worked really well for us. Anyway this is the “method”….what is important is to embed the knowledge capability into the organizations DNA. In fact, an organization shouldn’t be talking about KM after some years, because the idea is that it becomes part of their culture. Some companies don´t even call it KM after years of practicing it (e.g Accenture). Consider this as well: KM teams are not forever…they need to steward KM. Preparing an organization to be able to achieve that level of maturity is the primary objective.
So we can define KM as a transition state. This is why we often get caught up in the debate “knowledge vs information”. First, you need to start with the basics, i.e information management then you move up the scale and transition towards KM. For some time, both worlds will co-exist. That´s it. What the next step in the scale? Now, that would be a great discussion topic. In my company we are in that part of the evolution process so maybe in my next blog I will discuss that. In this sense, does KM really die? Maybe it does. But it gives way to something much bigger.
© Jose Carlos Tenorio Favero