posted 10 Jun 2004 in Volume 7 Issue 9
Mohamed Taher reviews Knowledge Management Lessons Learned: What Works and What Doesn’t, edited by Michael Koenig and T. Kanti Srikantaiah.
Title: Knowledge Management Lessons Learned: What Works and What Doesn’t
Editors: Michael E. D. Koenig and T. Kanti Srikantaiah
Publishers: Information Today, 2004
Knowledge Management Lessons Learned surveys the development of KM applications and innovations over recent years. The experiences and analyses of over 30 experts demonstrate knowledge management in practice, revealing lessons on what works and what doesn’t. Practitioners describe projects undertaken by leading knowledge-focused organisations, and top researchers and analysts discuss KM strategy and implementation on areas such as cost analysis, education and training, content management, communities of practice, and competitive intelligence.
As the management of intellectual capital and knowledge becomes a greater priority within today’s economy and organisational cultures, knowledge workers must understand their specific roles and tasks. Being able to draw on the lessons learnt by their peers to date is an invaluable information resource and tool. Many authors have dealt with the subject of knowledge management in the past, and Koenig and Srikantaiah’s book covers many of the most important themes, including a chapter that specifically visualises the roles of knowledge workers. This review will focus on the lessons that are of particular relevance to individuals that work with knowledge.
Viewed from the perspective of an organisation’s intellectual audit, the first-hand, and often painful, experiences of KM workers and practitioners deliver a balanced summary of significant lessons. Individual chapters deliver important message such as, ‘Connection is as important as collection’, ‘Context is as important as content, and ‘Do not ‘do’ KM, apply it to specific problems’. Other chapters that I found particularly useful include one on integrating knowledge management and competitive intelligence, and the nine lessons learnt shared by Tom Short from IBM, and Richard Azzarello of Reality Consulting. This summary cab only offer a sample of the many lessons incorporated within this book.
The book’s general approach to what works in knowledge management delivers valuable lessons to the reader. Examples of what doesn’t work, however, are not as explicit. Yogesh Malhotra contribution on why knowledge-management systems fail is a major exception where he describes the enablers and constraints of knowledge initiatives within what he calls human enterprises. A few other bold comments appear within the book and advise us to not get hung-up on confidentiality issues, for example, and how to compare the pros and cons of different background types when selecting who should head your corporate-intelligence function.
In addition, when considering that knowledge management and intellectual capital require tools and an infrastructure to work effectively within organisations, it is significant that the book only dedicates minimal attention to this area. To offer a complete account of KM lessons learnt, the book could benefit from sharing the experiences gained when developing a knowledge infrastructure, which is essential for capturing, storing and sharing know-how. Lessons learnt on managing databases, e-mails, teleconferencing, telecommuting, bulletin boards, Lotus Notes and instant-messaging technology could make this book even more useful. Moreover, if we are to glean a holistic understanding of KM from the lessons learnt, we need to comprehend the importance of and ways to measure and manage intellectual capital. Unfortunately, this area is only discussed briefly under ‘knowledge-management solutions’ in chapter three. Case studies on tools and methods of measuring knowledge would be useful to knowledge workers.
The book also features a helpful bibliography of scholarly works compiled by Paul Burden, which lists books and articles under categories such as, best practices, competitive intelligence, customer service, knowledge audit, intellectual capital, organisational culture, and so on. However, I have noted that the bibliography fails to include a number of useful papers. For example, Web Work: Information Seeking and Knowledge Work on the World Wide Web, is not included in the list even though it deals exclusively with what works when searching for information and conducting web-based KM initiatives. Similarly, Srikantaiah lists 36 knowledge-focused training programmes in chapter 30 but has not mentioned Knowledge Media Design, a degree offered at the University of Toronto that aims to nurture an intellectual community of scholars, researchers and students working in the area of knowledge-media design. Although it is impossible to offer an exhaustive list of reference and course materials, I found these omissions notable.
Despite these issues, readers searching for different ways of approaching subjects such as knowledge sharing through communities of practice and content management will benefit from the experiences and advice shared in Knowledge Management Lessons Learned. This book is a handy resource for all students, researchers and practitioners in the knowledge-management field.
- Choo, C. W., Detlor, B. & Turnbull, D, Web Work: Information Seeking and Knowledge Work on the World Wide Web, (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000).
Mohamed Taher is associate librarian at the Multifaith Library in Toronto. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org