Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teaching Knowledge Management

I've immersed myself in teaching with two classes. Both are focused on Knowledge Management, but they are as different as one could imagine. I am just finishing my first session online at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and I am preparing for George Mason University's face-to-face class in the fall of 2018. Very different classes with (for now), the same foundational textbook which has just been updated. Next I'd really like to provide some KM training within an organization.  That would provide a third, completely different way of teaching the same subject.
University of Maryland
University College
George Mason University
Schar School of Public Policy
100% Online
100% Asynchronous (though some chats are possible)
8 weeks long
Face-to-face over four-months.
Some Fridays 5-10pm and some Saturdays 9am-5pm
Total of 7 face-to-face sessions
Small online component.
Level & Discipline
Required class for Undergraduate Business Management major, elective for other majors.
Specialized Masters Degree in Organizational Development/Knowledge Management
Curriculum Design
Instructor follows a set syllabus and pre-selected readings and assignments. Multiple instructors teach the class and the common syllabus helps maintain consistency. Greatest degree of freedom is in designing the Learning Activities for weekly discussions.
Instructor is fully responsible for curriculum design with some coordination with other classes to create synergies and avoid overlap.
Student Audience
Working adults, many in military, including many first generation higher education seekers. Students have never met each other, will probably never meet.
Working adults. Student cohort goes through the program as one group.  They know each other well.
Learning Objectives
An introduction to KM as it applies to business. Why is it important? How does it manifest itself in organizations?
A thorough understanding of KM concepts and approaches and building the skills needed to implement KM initiatives in organizations.
Making It Stick
Apply key KM concepts to yourself, your work, your studies; Make the learning activities very scenario-based to encourage critical thinking.
Highly experiential, practice KM skills in the classroom and work with real organizations. Lots of small group work.
Readings & Other Materials
Core textbook (Dalkir), supplemented by less abstract materials, including videos.
Core textbook (Dalkir), Milton/Lambe's Knowledge Manager's Handbook, and lots of case studies, including an in-depth presentation and discussion of KM at NASA.
Some technology enhancements for added "engagement": Animated presentation using PowToon for instructor introduction, class overview and/or difficult concepts.
Possible guest speaker(s) to leverage the wealth of expertise in the DC area.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Conversations among KM Practitioners

The soon to be renamed Knowledge Management Association - DC Chapter held its monthly face-to-face meeting yesterday.  John Hovell facilitated a knowledge cafe starting us of with a short informal presentation on what he sees as a a set of trends leading to convergence of Knowledge Management, Organization Development, Diversity and Inclusion, and Systems Thinking (not sure I'm remembering this last one correctly but Systems Thinking was discussed in the mix).

In my mind, it's not so much that any convergence is really happening across disciplines, it's just that Knowledge Management has always been interdisciplinary and therefore crosses many other disciplines. Someone interested in Artificial Intelligence is probably observing a convergence between KM and AI.  We all approach KM from our personal framework, disciplinary background and professional experience. 

At the center of this convergence framework, John put the concept of conversational leadership.

As a tangent, I was also scanning through Kimiz Dalkir's Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice (3rd Edition) and I was struck by the number of KM models and frameworks presented. Clearly, there is no consensus on how to look at KM simply because it is so interdisciplinary. I also like the way Chun Wei Choo looks at it in  The Knowing Organization: How Organizations Use Information to Construct Meaning, Create Knowledge and Make Decisions. Choo approaches KM from an information science perspective without making it about IT.

I hope we can continue the conversation within the Knowledge Management Community and I would recommend that we focus on the concept of conversational leadership to explore it further. It's not new. It deserves re-visiting.

Conversations don't solve everything but they embody both the simplicity and complexity of human interactions. What is it about conversations that is so powerful? From a practical standpoint, how can we, as KM professionals, introduce "effective" conversations in the workplace? When we say "effective conversation" what does that mean? How do conversations relate to another KM tool, storytelling? Is that part of a bigger theme of narratives? I could keep going with questions and how things relate to each other.

How do conversations facilitate the transformation of individual knowledge into team and organizational knowledge? How can I integrate conversational leadership skills as a learning objective in classes I teach (both face-to-face and online)? If your job focuses on employee engagement then you'd be asking how do conversations support employee engagement.