My KM Talk in Dallas

February 9, 2007

I started this week in Dallas with a presentation on Knowledge Management. I promised various people access to material I referenced and plan to use this blog to summarise what I said with links to said material. If it works and is generally useful I plan to do the same after other events, if only to reduce email traffic! This blog may therefore be only of interest to those who were at the event itself. I will as promised, deal with Hubert tomorrow ….

Firstly to the content of my presentation. It was an interesting audience, as they were in effect about to embark on a KM journey, but many of the issues, concerns and plans raised would also have been common a decade ago. My own belief, as previously expressed, is that the organisation imperative behind KM remains, while the name and practice are nearing the end of their utility. So what did I do?

  1. I started with the basket ball video by way of establishing the pattern basis of human intelligence. I made the point that rational decision making based on scanning all available data (the myth of economist and most organisational theorists) turns out to be basically wrong. Humans make decisions based on a first fit pattern match with previous direct, or narrative based experience.
  2. I developed this them by referencing the time I got the IT department of a company to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time before I ran an innovation workshop. It is the story of a 15 year old autistic child trying to understand in a logical way the confusion of multiple human stimuli. They all enjoyed it, but asked why they had to read it, to which my response was that is the way you treat your users, you expect them to read the documents you send them for sign off and understanding them, to scan all the data you place on screens in front of them and to follow processes that to you are logical, but which to them are counter intuitive. My friend Patrick Lambe has an excellent article The autism of KM which makes my point more directly.
  3. After this it was back to basics. I ran through the three generations of KM that I first described in Complex Acts of Knowing and argued that my audience had a golden opportunity to avoid the mistakes of focusing on a purely technology driven approach to taci-explicit knowledge conversion. If I did not reference SECI/BA as the model that launched a thousand failed KM initiatives then I intended to.
  4. This led naturally to the purpose of KM, namely to improve decision making and to create the conditions of innovation. It always amazes me that people focus on the how not the why when they start on KM. The argument is that they have to store knowledge, to ensure we do not reinvent the wheel, etc etc rather than realising these are means to an as yet undefined end …..
  5. I had intended to talk about Just in Time KM but I was running out of time so promised instead to use this blog to reference my article on the subject.
  6. The final stretch saw me talk about the critical role of narrative in KM. I used several cases and basically argued for knowledge as being represented as experience, narrative and content, rather than the normal dichotomy of tacit and explicit which confuses the container with the thing contained.
  7. The Children’s Party Story also featured somewhere in this discourse and as usual made the point about complexity far better than any logical argument and at some point made the key issue of focusing on effectiveness rather than efficiency when you run a KM Programme.

Now I may well have missed out the odd book, or reference. If so please add a comment and I will respond. To everyone in the audience, especially those who sought me out at the end my thanks, as to the organisers.

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