Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting back into hardcore KM

Not that I have ever left KM completely. But my friends over at iKMS would probably suspect that I have abandoned them for a fatter job elsewhere. Anyway, I am back.

While trying to revive some old memory, I stumbled upon this article by Jan Torsilieri and Chuck Lucier of Booz-Allen & Hamilton titled: Steal This Idea and decided to quickly steal it. I am probably the n-th person who do so, as the article was published here in 2000 (registration required).

Here's a quote from the article which I tend to agree, unfortunately, which sums up the challenges in KM:

" The theory behind KM is simple: If you give people access to each other — and to the core content and information they need to do their work — everyone will make better decisions, make contributions to the health of the enterprise, and be happier.

Of course, it doesn't work quite that simply. KM requires people to do things that are, well, unnatural. It demands that they share their best ideas freely, giving up a piece of their personal competitive advantage, often without getting credit. It also obliges them to use other people's knowledge, which means admitting that somebody knows more than they do. Finally, it requires that they keep looking for ways to improve — what's good enough today will never be good enough tomorrow. KM calls on us to steal boldly and let others pilfer freely from us, day after day. Needless to say, the change program associated with knowledge management can be really hard."

All along I have been interested to learn more about why people give and take knowledge to and from other people. To say that knowledge sharing and learning from others is against human nature may be a little over-sweeping. Such tendency may be stronger in some people than others. Such individual differences would mean that managers need to also know the personal traits of their employees better in order to manage learning and sharing more effectively.

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