Knowledge Management is more than ever a matter of people!

Image courtesy from the  Sociology Department University of Columbia

“Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not as useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over.”
–Arthur Schopenhauer

Since the early days of human kind there has been knowledge, that we know of from the artifacts found almost everywhere in our world. Such knowledge our consciousness brain and emotions gather, collect, and store.

When I discovered about KM I was also amazed to notice the fact about the iceberg example as 80% of our knowledge is “resting” in our minds, moreover that KM could not be compared to a  Content Management System (CMS). What an amazing new discovery for me! A discovery that is renewed every day since!

My mentor, who is considered an authority  in KM, used to repeatedly reinforce the idea that “KM is a matter of people speaking and communicating to people”, he used also to say “KM is what happens between two pairs of eyes and two brains!” as if he wanted to make sure such image would remain alive once I would start learning more about KM. He never “pushed or forced” any idea or opinion, always saying: “Do not try convincing people about KM, the best way to promote it, is to preach by example!”

Today I can’t agree more with his words. Beyond and above the fact KM is viewed and known as a science, a technique, a skill, a discipline, KM is a matter of people. People at the center of knowledge, interacting with other people!

From there I started to learn about KM, to learn something new, something that was keeping me alert and unsatisfied as long as there was (is) something new to learn and understand. Since that moment, I met people, amazing and unique people, people who taught me so much about knowledge, but also who showed me a lot about my own human nature. One of these persons, whom I met during my KM “growth”, called me one day “A fellow traveler on the KM journey”. You can imagine how flattered my ego felt! But how responsible and accountable I would be not only to continue such journey but to learn and endorse its own values into my own.

I consider myself very lucky for having seen the rise of the Web some 23 years ago, when it became available to a wider number of people rather than reserved for universities and the ARPANET, (not sure if many know what this means) not sure also if many remember of the first providers such as CompuServe ©, or the first search tools (Remember AltaVista©?). I am lucky simply because I have learned through the many milestones of that “thing we call virtual space” had gone through and the ease of access that we actually have. Knowledge has never enjoyed a favourable era of its existence and evolution as today’s facilities and services we may use to collect, but also and above all to use the tools to communicate with other people and share this know-how!

The saddest aspect of life right now, is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
― Isaac Asimov

Of course I fully agree with specialists who consider that an effective KM solution requires, lots of efforts, work and appropriate tools (from framework, processes, technologies, governance, etc.) studies, ROI and ROE, budgets and management adhesion to the intention of implementing a KM program within the organisation.

KM, (at least to my understanding and findings) is a matter of people. It takes people to make KM a reality; people who nurture knowledge and bring it to newer levels of maturity into the continuing process for people to reach the state of happiness and the sense of wisdom.

The first time I heard the words happiness and wisdom, I smiled, the image I had about happiness and wisdom weren’t matching my understanding of such concepts at work, I always considered work as something meant for “serious business”. Today, I recognise how poor was my understanding and how obtuse my comprehension of the true meaning of happiness and wisdom.

During this moment of my journey, I attended three courses (MOOCs) where the teachers spoke about happiness and wisdom! At first I was in the wrong course, then it appeared I had to look at things differently. So yes I learned and discovered how in the most serious businesses such behaviour and such culture need to exist, to be encouraged and promoted! I also learned how much we imprison our minds into a two dimensional realm, speaking of compassion or happiness makes us bring a certain cliché, using the expression wisdom another cliché and so on we are caught in the limitations of the negative definition and social interpretation of terms and expressions.

The more I stepped into my KM journey the more I understood the importance of people’s role and the necessity of technologies and organizational structures and regulations. People were at the front row of all related consideration to KM, sustained and supported by a well-managed framework and governance. Sometimes specialists keep their entire focus on technical details and management issues, these are very important we all do agree about that, though it remains that people are one of the essential pillars of an effective KM culture.

From such understanding it did not take me long to compare KM to our Education and how deeply interlaced these were. Both contributing to people’s growth towards a better wellbeing (Happiness and wisdom, of course!)

KM is facing an amazing and unique opportunity to be adapted to today’s realities and to immediate people’s needs. If we think that Knowledge is Power, we also know that knowledge is the proper of people, else knowledge remains a lifeless concept. Based upon that, it is also natural to say that people need to gain ownership of Knowledge (KM), the easiest and simpler manner is through social networks, this Social Knowledge Management (SKM) letting people use their gained behaviours from public networks into business social knowledge platforms, sharing and providing in a very spontaneous manner the critical knowledge to their employers. How more efficient would it be the natural process of elicitation of knowledge without the gained habits that inevitably intoxicate critical knowledge businesses are in need of, before losing their seniors when they quit for retirement. The more we advance in seniority the higher is the risk to transfer our own habits instead of critical knowledge!

Considering a win-win scenario for both motivated people and earned most valuable critical knowledge for employers, SKM needs to become a standard into businesses who believe in the importance of KM! Every actor will then have a real role in this amazing journey of the evolution of real knowledge providing a renewal of an inspired education, the humanized education of knowledge!

Michel – January 18, 2015

“Connection, not collection: That’s the essence of knowledge management.”
–Tom Stewart. (The Wealth of Knowledge)