Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Knowledge Management Puzzle

What does this picture have to do with knowledge management?

It's a picture of the box cover for a puzzle I'm working on.  I am now going to attempt to use that picture to talk about knowledge management.  I hope you're smiling.  This isn't too serious.

First, knowledge management is a puzzle.  It may not have 1500 pieces like the puzzle in the picture but it has a number of interlocking pieces and like a 1500-piece puzzle, it may seem overwhelming at first to try to tackle it all at once.

Second, if you're like me and you've worked on such puzzles before, you start with the edges and you frantically search in particular for the four corners.  I'm not sure there is a strong advantage to the approach but it ensure some quick wins because the edges are easier to find and then place so that within an hour or less you've accomplished something.  You need the positive feedback, the feeling that you CAN do this. The same can be said of knowledge management initiatives.  Fixing the big picture may seem intimidating but there are quick wins that can be found.

Third, the puzzle represented in the picture is two-dimensional but if you step back, you can pay attention to the picture, what it represents.  It's colorful but it's silent.  What's missing to give you a good sense of that environment, the context for that small village cobblestone street? This is just one angle and it's not even complete.  Our knowledge is never complete.  If we read a lesson learned without the appropriate context, we might miss the bigger point it's trying to make.  In working on a puzzle, if you focus on the mechanics (finding pieces of the same color for example), you might completely fail to pay attention to the picture that is emerging.  Don't lose sight of the big picture, the larger culture change that may need to happen for the organization to become a learning organization.

Fourth, there is a great deal of culture embedded in that piece of technology in the picture; the car.  It's an old "deux-chevaux".  Perhaps its knowledge management equivalent is the continued practice of using email (and attachment) to transfer knowledge.  It's part of the culture.  Don't ignore it.  Of course, that car is now a classic.

Fifth, you can't have a french street without a café. You need a café for conversation and some benches to take time to pause, think, reflect and talk with colleagues.

Sixth, you have flowers and plants flourishing here and there.  They need watering and nurturing on a regular basis.  These are perhaps your communities of practice.  I know it's a stretch but we're almost done.

As a first step, for a very quick win, I would recommend fixing the grammatical error on the puzzle's title:  Rue Français... No, it would have to be "Rue Française."

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