The Stepford syndrome in KM

July 9, 2014

I was in a bad mood this morning.  A consequence of drinking far more than I am used to these days and knowledge of the purgatory of near starvation I will need to go through to get my weight back to where it should be by the end of the week.  Ok its not that bad but it's how I felt.  Then an early morning conference call where politics was intruding on what should be a research agenda.  This happens a lot with SenseMaker® as its more difficult to control the outcome than with more traditional research projects.   You might learn something you don't want to hear, or more importantly that your boss doesn't want to hear.  Shooting messengers is still a hobby for the C Suite in most organisations. 

Either way I got to the KM in Development conference late to come in on the tail end of a presentation of a social network analysis and a key word clustering exercise on the community.   Now my long held view is that SNA is either unethical and useful or ethical and a waste of time but I held back on that commentary.  However the conformity of words in use and their close clustering confirmed something that has been growing trend in the KM community.  That is a limited vocabulary of platitudes that makes them feel comfortable.  KM has become a refuge for people who want to be nice; and that is not a good thing.

So I said that; I also said that KM really needed to stop focusing on internal systems and self-affirming conversations and instead get real.  That means more small projects that impact on real world problems in the short term.  It's something we cover in the knowledge mapping process we developed years ago and which I need to more fully document soon.  That means supporting local decisions, allowing peer-to-peer knowledge flow and encouraging messy coherence.  Oh and close down those communities of practice which are now so hide bound as to be only of use to the avid naval-gazers.  We need more disagreement, more passion, more argument, more engagement which is not conditional on not upsetting people.

I could go on, but you get the sense of this?  Also the World Cafe format makes this tendency worse, but that is for a future post.  Sorry about the title and picture but this is a polemic.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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