Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What is KM? Yes, We're Still Asking...

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. Work & 'real life' keep getting priority. :-) Other than the time in-and-around the CALL conference, postings will be light in May, but I should be back to normal for June. In the mean time, I'm including one of my recent postings from Slaw, which discusses balancing one's efforts between implicit and explicit KM tools.


Funny thing KM. It seems we've been asking what is it as long as its been around. Case in point, a little post by Ross Mayfield which critiques some of the early KM practices, and offers a new term - Manage Knowledgement (MK).

Ross defines his new term as "a way of describing KM that's backwards but works", and that with MK, through blogs and wikis, the principle activity is sharing, driven by social incentives.

Problem is, as Luis Suarez points out, relying exclusively on social software offers no more balance than exclusively relying on tracking explicit knowledge, or what Mayfield describes as 'traditional KM'.

No need to critique here, as Luis Suarez makes all the points I would. But what I will add is that in a law firm setting, I see KM as a balance as well, but also as a series of building blocks - along the lines of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

And in that hierarchy, a firm should tackle explicit knowledge prior to implicit knowledge, to the extent that explicit collections are already identified or established. As an example, firm precedents, memos & opinions, or agreement collections should take priority over social software. In most law firms, these collections are already in existence, or sitting in binders in your lawyers' offices. To ignore them in favour of extracting more unorganized implicit knowledge makes little sense. Wouldn't it be better to have an established collection in place where the 'best-of-breed' discussions & postings could be highlighted and classified by subject? Surely every piece of content derived from social software is not of the same value?

Simply put, I think firms should get their content collection houses in order before tackling the high-end features of their KM program. Can explicit and implicit needs be tackled simultaneously? Sure, but explicit KM collections still provide the overall context, and need to take priority.


Blogger Wendy Reynolds said...

Steve, I think you're right on the money here. In the course of doing our information audit, one of the more glaring "pain points" is that there are already too many places to look for information. If you add blogs, wikis and collarborative workspaces to the mix, you're just making it worse. I'm going to be focusing my energies this summer on building tools to help us navigate the giant pile of stuff we already have. THEN we can diversify.

Hope we'll have a chance to talk at CALL!

Wendy Reynolds

5:29 AM  

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