Thinking about KM differently
In the late 1990s, I became fascinated by the concepts of implicit and explicit knowledge in the workplace. That was the dawning era of KM, and as an industry analyst, I was fortunate enough to meet with senior KM executives regularly. But not so much today. The need to manage knowledge today is as—if not more—significant than ever. However, back in the day, no employee ever wanted to make an effort to tag, manage, or share information, nor do they want to do that today. Indeed, amid political upheaval and a pandemic, holding tight to your work-based knowledge and insights is critical to keeping your job.
This past week, I was researching a tech firm on behalf of a client. That led me to an hour spent trawling through hundreds of employee reviews for this firm on the website Glassdoor. It was sobering if not depressing to read as one after another, angry employees vented their frustrations. The tales were similar enough to show an all too common pattern of a company focused solely on the bottom line. An executive team disconnected with their staff and regular layoffs. Why anyone in such a toxic environment would want to share their knowledge and potentially empower another member of staff is beyond me. This company is extreme, but at some level or other, whether due to laziness, lack of understanding, or fear, few employees are willing to manage knowledge. Indeed, pulling employees' insights has always been difficult; it's not likely to get any easier in the future.
So from such an ominous and gloom laden viewpoint, you may ask why bother? In return, I would argue that there is every reason to bother, but that we need to rethink and reframe our approach to KM fundamentally. Technology has improved dramatically over the past few years, more so than many realize, heralding an enormous opportunity in which KM can thrive. I will go as far as to say that this next decade will be the sunshine years of KM. The technology gives us tools previously unimagined, but to leverage them correctly, we will need to think about KM differently in two fundamental ways.
First, we need to foster a "supply chain" mentality.
Second, we need to move to a "push" as opposed to "pull" mentality.