by Lynda Bourne
In my last post, Information Is Subjective, I outlined the way data is gathered and transformed into information by the subjective application of personal knowledge. Now, let’s look at how knowledge is created and shared (the gold connections in the diagram above).
People know things: Knowledge is organic, adaptive and created. It exists in the minds of people. Some of each person’s knowledge is explicit—they can explain the rules that apply to it. But much is tacit: intuition, gut feelings and other ill-defined but invaluable insights, grounded in the person’s experience.
Therefore, managing knowledge means managing people.
The fact that knowledge exists in people’s minds does not preclude joint activities to create knowledge, share knowledge and refine knowledge. But the people involved need to be in communication with each other.
Some of the structured ways this can be accomplished include:
- Various forms of meetings. People working together to debate or brainstorm a challenge and build on each other’s inputs often enhances creativity.
- Mentoring and coaching to help transfer tacit and explicit knowledge from the coach or mentor to the trainee or mentee.
Structured approaches work well if the information that needs to be transferred or created is understood, and the people involved focus on creating or acquiring the required new knowledge.
Less formal approaches are better for generating completely new information or insights that people did not know they were about to create.
Spontaneity and serendipity are encouraged through social interactions, such as:
- Communities of practice where people with a common interest interact. Good communities draw members from a diverse range of workplaces, backgrounds and knowledge levels.
- Member associations such as PMI.
- Other social networks and the activity of networking by an individual.
- Creating an organizational culture of open communication that allows and encourages both the asking of questions and the provision of advice. People cannot know what they don’t know and a small piece of friendly advice at an opportune moment can prevent a painful learning experience.
Knowledge will never be uniform in its distribution or in the way people interpret what they know. The function of a creative knowledge management system is to smooth out the differences as much as is practical and to facilitate the creation of new knowledge through the synthesis of different people’s ideas and insights.
So as you venture forth to share knowledge, remember:
- An effective knowledge management system is built on a symbiotic relationship between an effective information management system and a culture that encourages and facilitates the open exchange of knowledge and ideas between people.
- An information system on its own will at best simply make useful information available to people. There is no control over how, or if, the information is accessed or used appropriately.
- A knowledge management system on its own may create brilliant insights, but the information is organic and transient. Everything is in people’s minds and their knowledge leaves the room when they do.
- A knowledge management system is most effective when it combines these two elements and provides governance and oversight to extract the maximum value from the information held within the organization through personal interaction, conversation and other social processes.