I'm seeing a renewed amount of web content on Knowledge Management and its benefits. Apparently, the US Federal government is is going to increase spending on KM 35% over the next 5 years and reach USD$1.3 billion by 2010.
While it's good to see money going in to KM...it's always much better to see benefit coming out. And what really caught my eye this week (thanks to Google Alerts for bringing it to my email) was an article entitled, How to Profit from Knowledge in an Organization, by Usman Imanah reporting in This Day, African Views on Global News.
Usman begins with a history lesson on sharing knowledge and quickly gets to a very raw, simple, but usable definition of KM, "KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets." But the article is not just a bunch of theory...after a great story about golf caddies sharing knowledge, the article gets into some applicable ideas, beginning with key questions to ask at the beginning, middle and end (never ending!) journey in KM: "A) What is knowledge in the context of the organization? B) What are the strategic objectives of the organization? and C) What is required to be done to facilitate learning, innovation and sharing to achieve the above objectives?"
So how are these questions answered...Usman believes a powerful Intranet with a KM portal with discussion forums is a great way to get employees communicating and sharing knowledge and experiences. From there, he offers the advice of Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap who have suggested shadowing and joint-problem solving.
Shadowing has been an HR practice for years, where newer - or at least less trained - employees follow experts around and "learn the ropes"...observing general business activities and some off-the-cuff problem solving. This is followed by discussion between the two parties to gain insight. The joint problem solving allows the underling to see and discuss the actual steps that the expert is working through in order to solve a specific problem. In a typical organization...the experts just go around solving problems without them, or anyone else, trying to understand how they got there. So working together on solving these problems transfers the problem-solving experience.
And of course, then there's my hobby-horse...the human factor...
Usman says: "The major problems that occur in KM usually result because companies ignore the people and cultural issues. In an environment where an individual's knowledge is valued and rewarded, establishing a culture that recognizes tacit knowledge and encourages employees to share it is critical. The need to sell the KM concept to employees shouldn't be underestimated; after all, in many cases employees are being asked to surrender their knowledge and experience‚ the very traits that make them valuable as individuals."
There's much more in the article, which is jam packed with helpful advice.