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It was a very good year

2004 has treated us pretty well, at least in terms of the quality of KM books published. Plenty of books warrant mention, but I'd like to call attention to the ones I believe are the cream of the crop. From my point of view, it all started with Knowledge Management, Lessons Learned: What Works and What Doesn't (published by Information Today). Editors Michael Koenig and T. Kanti Srikantaiah assembled the experiences and analyses of some 30 leading practitioners and theorists and in so doing, kept true to the title of this chosen collection.

Another valuable compilation come from Madanmohan Rao and publisher Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann. In Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques, Rao puts together stories about how KM has developed in organizations: " ... about KM journeys, origins, destination roadmaps, speed bumps gridlocks and compasses. It brings KM to life as a human story, filled with a cast of characters, agendas, passions, and motives and even with confusion and conflict." And that's the way it truly works in organizations, isn't it? Rao's 70-plus page introduction, "The Social Life of KM Tools," is justification enough to purchase the book.

Next on my list is Karl Wiig's People-Focused Knowledge Management: How Effective Decision Making Leads to Corporate Success, another Elsevier book. Wiig gets right to point in his preface: "Organizational performance is primarily a result of effective actions by knowledgeable people and therefore good knowledge management is crucially important. People act effectively when they understand situations and the context within which they operate, are motivated and have appropriate resources." I don't think anyone could argue those points, and Wiig balances a thorough examination of behavior in the workplace with solid, practical strategies to achieve peak organizational performance. Some might argue parts of the book are too esoteric—and I'm one who definitely shies away from the "spooky kooky" approach to KM—but Wiig avoids venturing into that ether and makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of effective knowledge management.

Clearly, one of the driving forces behind the best KM initiatives is the successful capture of employees' tacit knowledge. We have been warned for years that as our work force ages, the risk of losing intellectual capital within a organization climbs ever higher. And it's time, now, to take the problem seriously. Never before has that point been so effectively articulated as in David W. DeLong's Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce (Oxford University Press). DeLong, a research fellow at the Massachusetts's Institute of Technology's Age Lab, has written what will be viewed as the seminal work on the topic. He presents solid solutions to the knowledge retention problem that suit every organization, public or private, in the knowledge economy. Like all the books I've mentioned here, Lost Knowledge deserves a "must read" rating.

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