Saturday, September 17, 2011

KM Research Questions

I recently participated in a Twitter Chat focused on Knowledge Management Research (#KMers chat archive).

The conversation prompted me to think about key research questions I'd like to answer within the context of my own work.
  • What is different about knowledge management in the public sector (compared to the private sector)?
    Related Hypothesis: KM in the public sector is strongly impacted by contractor/government relationships and other types of "partnerships," creating organizational boundaries that inhibit knowledge sharing?
    Impact:  Barriers need to be recognized and addressed upfront.
  • What is the role of project managers and project management in knowledge management within the context of project-based organizations?
    Hypothesis:  1) Project-level knowledge management efforts need to be embedded in standard project management practices (not an add-on supported by the KM office); 2) In the absence of (and in addition to) formal KM requirements or embedding of KM practices in project management practices, the project manager plays a key role in ensuring the KM is taken seriously and not just a "check the box" activity.
    Impact:  We need to better understand how to embed KM practices and principles within established project management processes and we need to bring project managers on board.
  • What knowledge should knowledge management efforts focus on?
    Hypothesis:  KM efforts are often vague about the knowledge domain they will focus on or address, as if it was obvious or KM efforts were expected to cover all knowledge domains relevant to the organization.
    Impact: Be clear about what your KM efforts are covering or not covering.  Be strategic and focused. Don't try to do it all.
 Looks like I've skipped some steps and tried to answer my questions as I was asking them.
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cognitive Impact of Reading in Multiple Languages

Technically, my first language or mother-tongue is French.  Given that I have lived and worked in an English-speaking world for the last 25 years or so, my primary language is English.

I recently came across a Ph.D. thesis on a topic of interest (knowledge management and mapping) in French.  Given that I stopped using French after high-school, my exposure to professional level readings in French has been limited and I haven't read much about knowledge management in French. When I have come across French blogs and websites related to knowledge management, I've mostly been interested in the terminology and finding equivalent French words for the English language KM jargon I was familiar with.

Reading a Ph.D. thesis isn't the same as reading a blog. In addition to the terminology, which I wasn't familiar with, french sentence construction and the rules of argumentation (how you construct your argument and articulate your thoughts) are different in French. [I learned that quickly in my first year of college in the US when I had to switch to English and to another way of thinking and writing.] 

I have a lot of informal theories about bilingualism and the relationship between language and thinking modes, most of which I won't get into here.  Two things happen when I read in French:  1) I slow down because it relies on a part of my brain that's buried deep, a little rusty because it's not called upon regularly; 2) I awaken not just the language / translation part of the brain that reminds me that "gestion des connaissances" = "knowledge management", but also a different cognitive framework.  Reading in French essentially demands much more effort, much more thinking about what I am reading. 

When I am reading an English language book or academic article about KM, I tend to scan for anything interesting and new because I make a lot of assumptions about what the authors mean based on what I already know or have read.  Reading the same book or academic article in French forces me to pay closer attention to the meaning.

Related Resources:

  • Catherine Kelly SELLIN, "Des organisations centrées processus aux organisations centrées connaissance : la cartographie de connaissances comme levier de transformation des organisations. Le cas de la démarche de « Transfert de Savoir-Faire » chez Total", mai 2011. LINK.[This is the Thesis I've been reading in French]

Government Contracting & Knowledge Management

What is the impact of government contracting (both in terms of volume and types of contracts) on core competencies, intellectual capital, and knowledge management practices?

Insufficient attention is being paid to the government / contractor relationship in current KM strategies and practices.

1) Current KM strategies and practices ignore the organizational barriers, refusing to acknowledge that they exist;
2) Current KM strategies and practices focus on "government" knowledge and ignore the contractor perspective, while contractors may have their separate KM approaches focusing on their intellectual capital. 

Is the ultimate goal to merge government and contractor KM approaches?
Is the ultimate goal to establish knowledge sharing practices building bridges between government and contractors without necessarily merging KM strategies?  If so, at what level should this happen?  Project-level or higher?

I haven't scoped the issue very thoroughly yet but I think it's worth exploring.

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