Inside Knowledge Magazine /Knowledge Management Magazine Archive
Volume 5 Issue 10
While knowledge sharing practices are as old as human interaction itself, knowledge management is a relatively new area of management science. It was only in the mid-1990s that the concepts embodied by KM really crystallised to form a distinct discipline, although interest has since rocketed. As more organisations have come to recognise the critical importance of developing an environment in which knowledge is valued as an organisation’s most prized asset, knowledge management has evolved at an astonishing pace.
Unsurprisingly, however, particularly considering that KM necessitates the involvement of so many different parties with individual areas of interest and responsibility, practitioners fundamentally disagree about the direction that this evolution has taken. Some see KM as a field that was originally driven by technology and, following a period in which human factors and organisational learning took centre stage, to a large extent still is. Mark Koening, for instance, believes the third and current age of KM is dominated by the management of content through the use of taxonomies.
Dave Snowden, on the other hand, believes we are only now heading into a third generation of knowledge management, in which context, narrative and content management will be central to future practices. This third age follows the first, during which the emphasis was primarily on distributing information to allow timely decision making, and the current focus on tacit/explicit knowledge conversion inspired by Nonaka’s SECI model. (Turn to page 11 to read Snowden’s full article, ‘The new simplicity’.)
A third major account of how KM has evolved is best illustrated by the arguments of Mark McElroy, who believes the discipline has developed in two primary stages. The first of these he labels ‘supply-side’ KM, typified by the idea of ‘getting the right information to the right people at the right time’. More recently, says McElroy, we have entered a second stage. This generation also incorporates ‘demand-side’ knowledge processing, and includes a combined focus on knowledge integration and knowledge production.
Of course, these are by no means the only major interpretations of how KM has evolved. Undoubtedly you have your own views on how the discipline has developed, and on which issues will take precedent in the future. This month we have attempted to outline some of the most important considerations, however, and while you may not agree with our writers’ conclusions, I am confident that you will at least find the issues they raise both thought provoking and engaging.
Justifying KM investment in a legal practice
Knowledge management can be an expensive business that requires careful justification, particularly considering the difficulties associated with rating return on investment. John Hokkanen considers a four-pronged justification for implementing a KM strategy in a legal firm, leading with the crucial question: why KM? [WEB ONLY ARTICLE]
Towards a common approach to KM in Europe Part II
Driven by a desire to instil greater transparency and co-operation in the field, the European Knowledge Management Forum is working towards the development of a set of open standards for knowledge management. In the final section of this two-part article, Frithjof Weber, Michael Wunram, Jeroen Kemp, Marc Pudlatz and Bernd Bredehorst discuss the principles behind their work, and outline the first draft of a European knowledge management framework.
Greater than the sum of its parts
Any knowledge management initiative that is driven purely by technology is certain to eventually fail. Lesley Robinson outlines the importance of actively involving everyone throughout the organisation, and offers a case example that demonstrates what can be achieved if high-level commitment to KM is allied with the skills of a dedicated information management team.
Knowledge enabled e-business - Part II
The effects of globalisation have precipitated a huge increase in the importance of e-commerce to organisations operating in every sector. In the concluding section of this two-part article, Paul Louis Iske and Tony de Bree outline the role of knowledge as a key differentiator in e-business strategy, and describe a number of knowledge instruments that can help your organisation achieve that crucial degree of competitive advantage.
The language of KM
Language is central to the evolution and acceptance of new ideas, and this is particularly true for the rise of KM in becoming an accepted management discipline. Patti Anklam explores the linguistic roots of knowledge management, and charts its development to its current position in business thinking.
Context, narrative and content
Rather than fading into anonymity like previous management fads, KM has stood the test of time. According to Dave Snowden, however, the discipline is in danger of heading towards an evolutionary dead end. Here he draws on the theory surrounding complex adaptive systems to outline an approach to knowledge management that represents a new level of simplicity, and that promises to liberate the discipline from its current constraints.
Your Say: The evolution of KM
Knowledge management has always had its share of detractors, but the continued development of the theories and practices surrounding the discipline has ensured it remains as relevant and important to businesses as ever before. Simon Lelic talks to representatives from Azione, the Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society, Meta4, Nanyang Technological University and Sun Microsystems, and considers how far KM has come and, more importantly, what is next for the discipline.
Book review: The Wealth of Knowledge
Patti Anklam reviews The Wealth of Knowledge by Thomas A. Stewart
Five minutes with
The London Borough of Brent
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, spent five minutes talking to Andres Crespo, web manager, Information Technology Unit, for the London Borough of Brent about the organisations experience implementing a comprehensive knowledge management programme.
Country focus: Hong Kong
Simon Lelic talks to Trevor Lui about the evolution of KM in Hong Kong
The knowledge: Dave Snowden
Simon Lelic talks to Dave Snowden, director of IBMs newly created Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity