Gartner on the “Sea Change in KM” (some takeaways)

Just read a great post by Carol Rozwell from Gartner on challenges in the coming “sea change” in KM (or “Knowledge Management”) enabled by Social Media.  It’s about the transformation in how we approach collaboration and innovation in the work place.  She raises concerns that many are still trapped in the old 1990’s KM paradigm. As with any change, each of us must see the need for it, understand it, and accept it.

I couldn’t agree with her concerns more, and responded to her blog with my thoughts on KM’s evolution.

It is very encouraging to see more and more practitioners (organizations, companies, thought leaders, consultants) coming to the same conclusions:

Old KM often didn’t work.

New KM is about connecting people and driving engagement.  It’s not about collecting artifacts anymore. We are social and innovation engineers, not archeologists.

KM has alot to do with driving innovation.

KM has everything to do with collaboration, hence the strong links with Social Media.

Please post your comments here. Would love to know what you’re thinking. Meantime, thanks again Carol for a great blog post. Glad to know Gartner is engaging on this. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

Twitter Gets Down to Business: Unlocking 1:n Collaboration for the Enterprise

Companies seeking to innovate want to spark collaboration, but the path is often elusive. Twitter is positioned to help change this.  It’s founders have recently started talking about opening up microblogging in the commercial space, per a recent interview w/ Biz Stone.

But first, there’s a hurdle.  Companies must start to trust employees to communicate openly on shared topics inside the firewall. In theory, that shouldn’t be so hard. It simply means employees must exercise judgment, as has always been required, deciding when email, phone or (heaven forbid) face to face meetings would be more appropriate means to share something. But because the new mode of communication is out in the open, the bar is raised. Judgment will be even more important.

Point made. I believe employees will see the value of 1:n collaboration and will step up to the plate.

When execs and IT realize the water is safe? That’s when Twitter (or micro-blogging tools like it) will start unlocking doors.

What is 1:n (or “one to many”) communication? We’ve all been buried by emails and convoluted distribution lists that would have been far better served as an “open wire” dialog or chat.  It’s the input that creates your opportunistic “oh, I didn’t know that was happening” response.  Today only Twitter can efficiently spark that electronically in real-time.

I believe Twitter and solutions like it will have an evolutionary impact on communications when they begin to take hold.

Given the chance, most want to help drive an innovative idea or solution. They seek to get their ideas in circulation. 1:n communication is the better mousetrap.

Not to sound impatient, but why wait?  Security in the corporate setting was solved long ago.  Granted, when information is going outside and across the firewall, who uses Twitter and definitions of “safe ground” for tweet content is a bit more complicated.   There have been some great posts on the ‘spectrum’ of corporate views on how to interact with the public using Twitter including Marketing, PR & Customer Service guidance.  This aspect is evolving.

But let’s not sacrifice the internal work group benefit to wait for the external Marketing & PR side to catch-up.

It’s time to get down to the business of effective 1:n corporate communication. Twitter represents a powerful new medium for more effective enterprise collaboration.

Become an advocate for change in your organization.  Help take the “social” out of Social Media by putting it to work on important business conversations.  That leg-up will give Twitter the chance to work it’s collaboration magic in the enterprise.

Start brainstorming with your colleagues, how could you leverage “1:n” communication to solve business problems?

(Thanks to a blog post by George M. Tomko with a comment by Nigel Legg, where portions of this post first appeared as a comment; you guys got me thinking on an important topic !! CJ)

KM, the Remix: shouldn’t it be “Collaborative Services”?

KM IS EVOLVING, most everyone seems to agree on that.  But the burning question remains: in what direction?

I believe “Collaborative Solutions” provides a better umbrella for the practice of Knowledge Management (“KM”), simply because it makes more sense.  And if it makes more sense, it should resonate better with C-level executives who need fund it and personally endorse it.

KM emerged in the 1990’s as an amalgam of vendor marketing and good intentions, where work group tools and new collaboration processes seemed to create a synergistic blend of capabilities.  Unfortunately, KM often struggled to get buy-in, and semantics was a factor: you really can’t “manage knowledge”.  You encourage people to develop it, share it, enhance it, and reuse it.  That’s both a leadership challenge and a culture challenge, since corporate culture tends to dramatically deemphasize sharing in favor of  producing results.

Make no mistake, results are critical.  But in a knowledge-driven economy, collaboration is increasingly the driver of how those results are achieved, especially where there is an imperative for  innovation.

Collaboration demands more mind share.

So think about “Collaborative Solutions” as a better delivery vehicle, and “Collaborative Services” to describe the activities of practioners who are driving it.

What’s in a name?  For KM, way too much.

Let’s fix it.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

KM Evolution: Prusak & Snowden Video

Thanks to Helen Nicol for surfacing a good video interview about the transition of KM from management fad to an integral part of Social Computing (aka Social Media). 

Posted with the original title “Is KM Dead?” the interview examines aspects where ‘KM as fad’ has expired but that many of its practices and core practitioners live on.  The video interview is a year old (July 2008, interviewer: Patrick Lambe)  but still timely –

Snowden is particularly insightful re: forces at work moving from highly structured, pre-codified taxonomies to the more ‘organic aspects of knowledge that model human interaction.’  KM has long struggled as a practice area, for many reasons outlined in the interview, but also for a key reason outlined in my earlier wiki post: fundamentally, the culture for collaboration has been lacking. Where that culture has been updated or transformed, KM will have the opportunity to add value.

I agree with Prusak & Snowden, the core KM concepts remain important, and are showing up frequently (even moreso, one year later) in interactions where collaboration and business problems require it.

Yes, the fad days are over.  KM promises were sometimes oversold by vendors and consultants alike. 

But KM practices are NOT dead, as the space is transforming to something broader and more dynamic. It will serve processes that are more integral to collaborative practices in a knowledge economy, what Snowden calls ‘a flex period of social and natural science’ or ‘renaissance’.

I call it ‘collaborative innovation’ – a new social media practice that we brainstorm often at #smchat.

In a fundamental way, KM advances processes and concepts that are intended to facilitate  communities of practice.  In our knowledge economy, demands for innovation and collaboration are pushing these requirements to the top.  As long as KM practioners are flexible, that is, able to operate in a dynamic mode and willing to new learn technologies, there will be a place for KM at the table. Social media is a powerful force, and KM may not get center stage.  But there are important engagement synergies in SM and KM that we can’t afford to neglect.

As always, would love to get your thoughts.

Premiering #SMCHAT

Building on the #chat trend in Twitter, there’s a new forum for discussing social media (SM) among practitioners and strategists.   It’s called #smchat, and can be quickly accessed by surfing here at the scheduled time: 

http://tweetchat.com/room/smchat

It’s an open forum.  Anyone interested in driving value from online interaction & collaboration is welcome. Be ready for a discussion that’s sometimes technical but always lively.  Members will be exploring dynamics of social & professional interaction, twitter, online communities, and the evolution of knowledge networks.

To submit ideas, join Linked-In group #smchat or watch for these logos:

smchat

smchat-small

In between weekly live chat sessions, anyone interested can visit the Linked-In group for updates, and watch Twitter hashtags #socialmedia #collaboration and #km for insight.   We’re also posting frequently now to streams #e20, #gov20 and #web20.  To get the conversation started and to work on keeping it focused, #smchat will be moderated by @sourcepov (Chris Jones). 

For more information and upates on times and topics, visit wthashtag.

Hope to see you there –

Why KM Struggles: Fighting a Culture of Control

CARY, NC USA.   The practice of KM (or “Knowledge Management“) has had it’s struggles, enduring many years of growing pains.  The grand prize – product and process innovation – is alluring, so KM teams have worked diligently to leverage intuitive, web-based tools and frameworks that can drive expanded use of corporate knowledge stores.   Behind the scenes, vendors have been busy too, because KM (and it’s close cousin, “Enterprise Search“) have been the best hope for social media tool developers to get a foot-hold in the lucrative commercial space. 

But lasting engagement and results are often elusive.  Why is this so?

In many important ways, KM is culturally at odds with the prevailing management mindset in corporate America. 

For the last 100 years or so, the fundamental paradigm in business has been been built around control, with administration by authoritative, hierarchical management.  Goals and policies come down from the top, and the mission is routinely around maximizing hard economic profit, often to the detriment of other goals.  In spite of efforts to maintain a portfolio of goals, the drive for quarterly earnings can often trump all else.  In fact, reducing cost of production and cost of defects has been the hallmark of industrial management, and it all comes down to standardization.  In this world, innovation is often relegated to R&D (it’s own “speciality”), if it’s funded at all.  It’s a mindset that externalizes improvement, if not discouraging change outright.

In today’s economy, the long-term effect of these trends is more apparent than ever.

KM embraces innovation, and sees change as important.  It seeks to open doors and encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries.  It is designed to weave innovation into the fabric of every team and every process.  With KM teams and practices in play, problem solving leans away from the structured organization of functional specialists, in favor of empowering individual contributors, who form fluid, cross-functional teams that are often better suited to solve complex problems.  The locus of energy shifts to knowledge workers, who can best positioned to see, understand, articulate, and guide their teams to achieve better, more innovative solutions.

In a business culture predicated on control, it’s small wonder that KM has been facing lots of closed doors.

KM is at it’s best when knowledge workers receive the tools and training they need to generate insight and act on it.   Gearing-up for KM is lots of work, but it’s the foundation for success of a knowledge enabled company in a marketplace that is beginning to reward players that are savvy about how to leverage knowledge and colloboration to innovate. 

To unlock KM’s potential within an enterprise, then, it seems the only productive path is to knock on the doors of culture change within the organization.  Is executive management open for change?  Better still, are they demanding it?  Do they see the value of cross-functional teams?  Are they willing to help break down the political barriers that are natural artifacts of hierarchical management structures?

Or is the status quo going to have to suffice? 

If you start hearing about limited money for KM, you have your answer, at least for the short-term.

Knowledge Management can work.  In fact, to compete in our new knowledge economy, it’s critical.  But we need to start with culture issues, and fix those first.  The journey is long, but there are no shortcuts.

You have to begin at the beginning.