Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Manage Knowledge more Systematically

Knowledge can be outdated, but insight and wisdom are timeless.  

Digital organizations are information overloading and knowledge abundant, but very few of them are truly running a digital-savvy, high-intellectual business. On one side,  the successful companies large or small, think that Knowledge Management is essential to their success and KM typically is part of or reported to the executive committee. This allowed the organization to facilitate the transfer of knowledge gained from one place to another. Many executives indicated that they simply couldn't succeed without such a KM strategy. On the other side, KM in the most of the companies have been managed with silo, focus more on content than context, local than global, single dimensional than multi-disciplines, what are the digital KM principles and best/next practices to achieve contextual intelligence by making KM effectively?

Specialized generalists are needed to bridge the knowledge gap between socioeconomic and cultural differences. These are real and must be factored into solutions if they are to succeed, just as social structures are essential to any organization. There is a knowledge gap needs to be minded. Scientists are not managers and managers don't understand scientists. For a new scientific result to cross this divide, one either needs a scientist who understands management or a manager who understand science to bridge the gap. Such people are few and far between. Alternatively, the traditional "technology transfer" process employs people who can operate in both worlds and who facilitate what being called "knowledge transfer" today. global knowledge transfer requires knowledge transfer facilitators who can cross cultural and socioeconomic divides to make it happen.

Knowledge needs to be managed more systematically. Perhaps in organizations, there seems to be the "expectation" that if you have a great business in one place and it's working ok then knowledge, ideas, solutions, and advice will easily transfer and that piece of the jigsaw will fit snugly into somewhere else. Certainly in less complex situations, one can see how this easily works. However, organizations become more complex than ever, knowledge needs to be facilitated and managed more systematically. “It works here so it just has to work over there too" may not hold true when you factor in cultural aspects and local market conditions. Clearly transferring all that, however well tested and successful in one area is no guarantee of success in another so some facilitation and not just from KM people is probably needed.

The hybrid KM solution to well balance the two ends -centralization and decentralization to achieve effective KM. Communication and exchange are necessary so doing nothing is likely not an option. Assigning cost and value are challenging, but it is necessary to assign resources, etc. It is also important to prioritize efforts and take a phased approach to address objectives and identified problems. Governance principles can be applied to managing KM infrastructure, it is also critical to build a cross-functional decision-making team and establish reasonable and actionable guidelines for evolving the KM infrastructure to address end-user needs. Having too little oversight and too much decentralization leads to lack of any “system”. Too much centralization and inflexibility and there won’t be room for growth and adoption by users. So, find the correct balance between the two ends for achieving effective KM.

In the global working environment, context intelligence is about understanding the whole meaning of languages and cultures. Working in multicultural and global environments and organizations, they need to develop their own language, to make the proper framing in order to access the process of understanding each other easily. Here, language is not just about a certain idiom, but the whole meaning KM professionals provide and the coding you give to language, which is managed using a combination of phonetic ideas palpable through words (speaking English for your team does not provide necessarily the same meaning for other teams in another context, even if both share the same idiomatic skills). Bilingualism is not a small matter; multilingualism is even more difficult. The solution is relatively straightforward - translation. As a primarily human activity, the cost, however, is substantial. In addition, it isn't just about the words; it is also about understanding the context of different cultures. The more complex the subject, the more need there is for human involvement. 

Create a shared framework which will lead to a shared meaning. Humans, as all the creation as we know it, is based on efficiency, and part of that is embedded in our evolutionary wrapping, so for making easier communication, we tend to simplify the most way we make decisions,  so we create a "custom version" of language, and it works more efficient for a small group of people (subsystem: team collaboration). Create/provide a shared framework which will lead to a shared meaning, which will aid in unifying the feeling of being part of the same system. But how do you minimize the cost of establishing and maintaining such a language divers knowledge infrastructure? Try to create a subsystem (team) that leverages experiences understandings and meaning. They act as translators and gluing the gear to minimize possible gaps among wider or more distant teams. Sort of a nervous system to coordinate actions on different subsystems.

Digital KM principles:
  1. It is a human problem and not a technological problem.
  2. The second takeaway is you can't resolve 21st century KM problems with the mindsets half a century ago (1950 or 1960).
  3. One’s knowledge is the other person’s information only, knowledge can be outdated, but insight and wisdom are timeless.  

In Einstein words: creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting points and its rich environment. But the point from which we start out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.


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