Thursday, April 11, 2002

Simplifying knowledge sharing to promote sharing

Yes! I feel like I have always worked in environments where there has been this 'knowledge is power' mindset.  As far as knowledge sharing is concerned, I think it is difficult to get people who are climbing up the corporate ladder to 'let go' and expose themselves in a public way through the written word (what if they misspell?  what if they end a sentence with a preposition?).  I don't have enough time right now to explore this topic, but I want to come back to it at some point. -Jbt

Operationalizing Knowledge Management - What happens when incentives conflict?

In our last class we managed to hit Professor McGee's hot button about controlling information when too much is being shared - but what about the reverse situation?  Specifically, I worked for a consulting firm that built a very functional tool for knowledge sharing, but had a hard time convincing people to put anything of value out there for others to see (or "steal" as was the fear).  In professional services, your value is often defined by what you know and how many people come to you for your expertise.  Given this "knowledge is power" mindset, how do you get people excited about revealing their insights and knowledge in the public domain?  Has anyone else experienced similar conflicts?  Are there success stories out there to give us hope?

[Courtney Mohr's Radio Weblog]

[Jeb Trowbridge's Radio Weblog]

Yes, I do have my hot buttons. And the knowledge sharing vs. knowledge is power debate goes as far back as the first discussions of KM I ever had.

One line of thought that might be productive. A largely unexplorted dimension in KM is that of visibility. I've written one initial stab at it in a piece looking at knowledge work as craft work.  I suspect the underlying fear in this debate is that of having your work taken and used without credit more so than simply having it used. This is one of the intriguing aspects of a weblogging/knowledge-logging environment. It gives you both a tool for simple visibility and a tool for watching the chronological evolution of ideas. Many (not all) of the arguments about who thought what when are effectively eliminated by weblogs. Sure we'll find new things to argue about, but wouldn't it be nice to eliminate this one?

K-logs also promise to lighten the load on experts in a nice way. As an expert develops, accumulates, and organizes their answers and advice by maintaining a log, they can eliminate all sorts of annoying parts of their job. Instead of having to answer the same ill-informed question time after time, they can point newcomers to the relevant entry in the log. They can ask callers "have you gone throught the checklist of 'things to do before you call me' yet?" Over time, they promise to take away some of the onerous parts of being an expert and provide more time to do the fun things about being one. Also, the relative simplicity of weblog tools makes it feasible for more people inside organizations to set themselves up as experts of narrower but still useful domains. How about a weblog done by the mail room or the graphics department on how to get the most out of our services? Not worth doing if you have to work through the layers of IT bureaucracy. Eminently worth doing for a few dollars a year.

9:32:18 PM •  • comment  

A Frog in the Valley: Je pense à retirer la fonction de commentaires, qu'en pensez-vous?  Agreed.  I've just turned off comments too.  No effective way to subscribe is the key reason.


As Jon said before comments were introduced to Radio, "But now I'm wondering whether this "bug" in Radio is really a feature."  [Sam Ruby]

I've come to the same conclusion and have turned off comments as well. Weblogs are not the same thing as threaded discusison and those differences are important to maintain.

9:03:47 PM •  • comment  
Looking for value in knowledge management

KM Must be Tied to a Coherent Business Model.

Business 2.0 reports on concrete examples in the corporate world where KM is working. The author cites a number of examples of companies (Wal-Mart, G.E., Buckman Labs, and others) that use targeted KM efforts to further the business model. One quote:

See the pattern? A clear business model -- "business model" meaning "how we make money." A strategy to implement that model. And knowledge management supporting it as tightly as a Mafia lawyer.

[tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog]

Fortunately, Tom Stewart is a journalist not an academic. That means he gets credit for making things clear and simple and we benefit. "How do we make money" is a wonderfully powerful question for making sense of strategy and for connecting vague generalities about knowledge management to concrete discussions of "show me the money."

The one challenge Steward doesn't address is how to distinguish between "show me the money" as a serious question about how to set priorities around KM opportunities vs. a not-so-subtle attempt to avoid KM in any way, shape, or form. That takes an eye for reading between the lines that usually comes with practice.

5:43:57 PM •  • comment  
Building expertise and authority over time

Computer Viruses and "False Authority Syndrome"

An interesting article in its own right about how fears of computer viruses are perpetuated, in part, by credulity of non-technical users and journalists.  I was particularly struck by the following observation that closed the article:

Visual Developer editor Jeff Duntemann sums it up best: "If people exercised greater discretion in who and how and to what degree they place their trust, we would know more as a community -- and we would know it better. There would be fewer paths for bad or phony knowledge."

This also nicely sums up one of the challenges in knowledge management and the potential of knowledge-logs to address that challenge.

We all operate in a world where expertise is valued and respected. All too often we forget that deep expertise can come at the expense of broad understanding. We all need to get smarter about how to assess, evaluate, and trust the quality of an expert's expertise. Credentials of various sorts are the usual vehicle, but they have limits when we're faced with the proliferation of certificates and titles we can't decode, much less the knowledge they purport to represent. Real trust develops over time and with an appreciation for the limits of expertise (one test is an expert's sense for the limits of expertise). A weblog provides a way to build and demonstrate expertise in a way that is difficult to mimic.

12:01:20 PM •  • comment