KM Asia: The top 10 takeaways

This article appears in the issue March 2013 (100 Companies) [Vol 22, Issue 3]
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The year-end KM Asia conference always throws up fascinating questions and directions for knowledge management in the coming year, and the recent edition featured a good mix of insightful keynotes and regional case studies. Here are my Top Ten takeaways from this annual event in a global hotspot.

1. Knowledge networking

Far too many key performance indicators in KM focus only on knowledge performance within organizational boundaries, and not across silos. Knowledge collaboration and networking across units is not rewarded as much as within project teams, for instance. But that leads to blind spots at the organizational level, and reduces resilience during industry shakeouts. Diversity in the KM mix can help with broader sense-making and with situational awareness. Attention should be paid to increasing the serendipity factor in knowledge discovery.

2. Beyond curiosity: research

It is not enough for KM practitioners and CKOs to have a sense of curiosity about KM; they also need to have a research mindset to dig much deeper into issues of practice and theory. Industry associations such as Singapore's Information and Knowledge Management Society or professional networks such as Bangalore's K-Community help bring together academics and industry practitioners in this regard, and launch locally relevant research projects and casebooks about KM.

3. Connect knowledge to innovation

Heads of KM and heads of innovation seem to come from different planets, rather than opposite sides of the same coin. Knowledge is the catalyst to innovation, but very few KM practitioners have innovation on their agenda, and many innovation managers practice KM without realizing it. Formal connections between the two streams could strengthen each.

4. Social media and diary research

Social media opens up new frontiers in "diary research"—analyzing customer behaviours and employee habits though online "moment mapping." Customer immersion helps in this regard—both in real-life locations as well as social media hangouts. Understanding employee knowledge flows in corporate social media on a periodic basis can also unlock new insights into organizational knowledge communication.

5. KM and conversations

In the words of Theodore Zeldin (author and president of the Oxford Muse Foundation), conversation doesn't just reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. Minds in conversation don't just exchange facts but transform and reshape them. KM shouldn't just help us know more, but understand better, according to David Weinberger (author and senior researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society). Knowledge validation requires a diverse employee mix that welcomes and explores differences and listens without being judgmental.

6. Complexity and knowledge flow

Thanks to extensive social and mobile media, organizations are able to gather unprecedented information and create real-time narratives. The challenge, however, is in making sense from the dizzying knowledge flow, and then disseminating the lessons learned in a manner that is fast and easy to interpret. A KM challenge today is dealing with VUCA-volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. New kinds of narrative forms need to be experimented with, instead of the usual structured documents.

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