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On conferences, KM and complete idiots

By now, nearly all of the presentation slides from the KMWorld 2001 conference should be up on our site (just click the button on the home page), and reviewing them will give a good sense of the conference program even if it’s impossible to capture the essence of such an event in a series of PowerPoints.

By the way, overall attendance was down only about 10%, which is pretty remarkable considering that many shows—not just those in the tech sector—were down by 50% or more, if not outright canceled. There were actually more exhibitors this year in Santa Clara than there were last, although conference attendance was lower. And as a special thanks to the conference attendees who did attend, Information Today President and KMWorld Publisher Tom Hogan Sr. offered them half-price conference passes to KMWorld 2002, which, again, will be held in Santa Clara at the end of October.

As anyone who ever attended any sort of technical event knows, the conversations outside the sessions are often of equal (and sometimes more) value than those in the conference rooms themselves. I often found myself talking to people from IT departments, and the discussions frequently involved the standard KM quandary: people vs. technology. And while one might expect these folks to argue long and loud for technology—more is always better, right?—that wasn’t the case at all. Rather, they acknowledged that today’s emphasis in technology, especially that displayed by the exhibitors at the show, is on serving people, rather than the other way around, which they acknowledged was all too often the case in the past. These vendors really moved beyond adding cumbersome and unnecessary functionality.

Nevertheless, they agreed that the notion knowledge management was often clumped by senior executives into the realm of a convoluted technical nightmare destined to fail, due in large part to some rather significant examples of early KM initiatives that did just that. And more than once I heard in the aisles that senior execs view KM as just a bit too esoteric.

To those who think KM is just some Rube Goldberg interpretation of self-important business blather, I suggest you buy them a copy of Melissie Clemmons Rumizen’s new book: “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management,” published by CWL Publishing. (The mere fact that an Idiot’s Guide has be published about KM should, in and of itself, prove KM is here to stay.)

In his foreword, Laurence Pruzak writes: “This is not an unwieldy academic tome; Rumizen follows the dictum of Oscar Wilde to treat unimportant things seriously and important things lightly. It is good to remember that humor and humility serve any change effort well, including becoming more knowledge-focused.”

She gets it right, she covers every component and the book is filled with practical examples. Except for incredibly annoying cartoon “light bulbs” (ideas, get it?), the book is an excellent, if not essential, read for KM skeptics. I’ll wager that anyone who reads the book will become far more receptive to building a knowledge culture within his or her organization.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management is available on the Web, from your local bookstore (it deserves your business, too) or from CWL Publishing, 3010 Irvington Way, Madison, WI 53713; tel. 608-273-3710

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