Sunday, October 16, 2022

Three Recent KM Books => two different approaches to Knowledge Management

I don't read a lot of books anymore.  Shame on me!  Still, I invested in three knowledge management books in 2022:
  • Design Knowledge Management System: A Practical Guide for Implementing ISO30401 KMS Standard, by Shanthosh Shekar

  • The Learning-Driven Business: How to Develop and Organizational Learning Ecosystem, by Alaa Garad and Jeff Gold.  

  • Making Knowledge Management Clickable: Knowledge Management Systems Strategy, Design, and Implementation, by Joseph Hilger and Zachary Wahl.
This post will focus on the last two listed above.  When I first scanned through Design Knowledge Management Systems, I found it difficult to absorb and I didn't give it a solid chance.  I will have to try again. 

I just received The Learning-Driven Business and suddenly and I had a aha! moment, an insight.  The Learning-Driven Business and Making Knowledge Management Clickable are two completely different books and reading them, one might think that they take diametrically opposite views on Knowledge Management or that they cannot possibly both be about Knowledge Management.  

The Learning-Driven Business is focused on how people learn in organizations, whether at the individual level, in teams, or at the organizational level.   Making Knowledge Management Clickable is about the systems that need to be put in place in a modern, efficient organization, so that employees don't waste their time looking for knowledge and find what they need faster. I'm oversimplifying. Neither approaches is simple or easy to implement well. To oversimplify even further, I could say that one is about systems (understood primarily as technology) and the other is about people.  

Two insights:

1. Find the Balance:  A successful Knowledge Management program must find the right balance between those two approaches.  This is not news or a new insight, but somehow organizations often don't get this right.  Any organization that focuses on the systems will soon discover that without a culture of learning and embedded learning processes, the systems will be underutilized (and then the technology will be blamed and the organization will seek to replace the technology... just to repeat that mistake). Any organization that focuses on learning without addressing the inefficiency of its systems will struggle to find the time for learn.

For example, the less time is wasted looking for information, the more time is available for critical thinking, reflection, team learning, etc... However, without a culture of learning and learning processes in place, the time saved with efficient systems isn't necessarily spent on learning.

2. Blend and Integrate:
  Before trying to figure out what the appropriate balance is between the two approaches, how can we think about how the two are connected? Perhaps the answer is not in the ratio of one approach vs. the other but more in carefully embedding both approaches in a coherent framework and understanding how they interact and reinforce each other. Perhaps an ecosystem approach or a systems thinking approach is warranted.  This is also relevant when the organization discovers that however efficient individual "systems" are, they are not well integrated and require employees to waste time switching from one system to the other. 

In the next blog post, I will explore these issues with a realistic, practical example with a specific process.

No comments: