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KM Singapore 2015:
Twelve tips to unlock the knowledge-ready advantage

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6 Tap the global knowledge movement. Communities of KM practitioners are emerging in countries around the world and offer lessons and ideas on new directions for KM. At KM Singapore 2015, the Knowledge Management Global Network (KMGN) was formally launched, bringing together KM communities from nine countries: Singapore, Hong Kong/China, India, Thailand, Japan, Australia, France, Russia and the United States. The movement will cooperate on research projects, share tools and resources, launch a locator network for KM experts and jointly organize KM conferences.

7 Site visits yield new insights into KM. It is one thing to read a KM case study and another to visit the actual offices of the KM practitioner organization. Visits to HSL, a marine engineering services firm, and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) yielded on-the-ground insights into space design, creative architecture and visible symbols of a knowledge culture. Those included a “tree” model used as a metaphor for leadership at HSL (a good strong leader is the tree that anchors many branches, flowers and leaves), and an “IP 101” room at IPOS for creative activities and public participation in the seemingly arcane world of IP, patents and trademarks.

8 Let people express themselves in their own creative ways. While much in knowledge capture and communication tends to focus on the typed or written word, people actually express themselves in multiple other ways. KM visioning exercises have shown new insights when people express themselves through doodles, drawings, figures, PostIts, flipcharts, cards, audio, video and even skits. At the KM Singapore conference, some participants depicted their KM initiatives using figures like ships, sharks, pyramids, waves, spirals, graphs and even skeletons.

9 Ensure knowledge succession. Knowledge must succeed and be sustainable, said Arthur Shelley, author of The Organizational Zoo and the forthcoming Knowledge Succession. What knowledge drives performance and innovation? Organizations need to focus not just on creating knowledge (“what”) but also on its implications (“so what”) and immediate actions (“now what”). Innovation is at the intersection of local knowledge, organizational knowledge, academic knowledge and stakeholder knowledge. “Getting ideas is a good start, but you need to convert potential into value,” he said. Aligned conversations help companies keep the focus on strategic knowledge in the long run. “Curiosity, courage and adaptability drive effective performance,” Shelley said.

10 Explore weak ties and strong ties. Organizations certainly must share knowledge and build on relational capital, but they also need to master a number of dichotomies, said Stuart French, consultant at KnowQuestion (knowquestion.com.au). For example, there are advantages as well as challenges to virtual teams: geographic dispersion (but lack of shared context), online reach (but less richness), structural dynamism (but less organization) and national diversity (but also culture clash). “Weak ties give access to novel knowledge and information, but it is the strong tie that will lead to transfer of the innovative idea,” he said.

11 Inter-organizational KM must lead to co-creation. Mature KM practitioners are extending their initiatives across organizational boundaries to share knowledge between firms. But that should extend beyond sharing and cooperation to collaboration and co-creation, said Vadim Shiryaev of KM Russia, citing a number of case studies from Russia (see my earlier article: kmworld.com/Articles/News/News-Analysis/KM-strategy-bears-fruit-in-Russia-94903.aspx). Co-creation is usually with a smaller group than in crowdsourcing and includes active involvement of customers, he said.

12 Focus on formal as well as informal knowledge sharing activities. Francesco Calabrese, managing director of the International Institute of Knowledge and Innovation (ikit.org), urged organizations to focus not just on knowledge assets in the “forefront” (e.g. documents) or in the “background (e-mails, PostIts) but also “out of sight” (stories) and online discussion. “Acknowledge and identify backroom knowledge sharing in informal clusters,” Calabrese advised. “If you think starting KM is tough, try starting it in two languages at the same time,” he joked, drawing on the case study of the Pan American Health Organization, which embarked on KM in both English and Spanish simultaneously.

“Companies should overcome their fear of innovation; a collaborative culture and a lot of craziness will help,” said Shiryaev, who organizes KM events in Russia with an element of club activities. The KM Singapore conference itself featured a highly popular afternoon “unconference” on the last day, where participants could choose which topic they wanted to hear or speak about, and accordingly gathered around a number of tables in two shifts.

Tipping points and tripping points of KM

The conference ended with an interactive panel on the success factors and challenges of KM. “KM initiatives will falter if people confuse knowledge with information, or skills with expertise,” said French. Kaplan said, “KM can help companies solve critical problems, but don’t forget the contributions of the simple act of conversation.”

There also needs to be a healthy attitude toward learning from failure. “My previous company gave a Turkey Award for the dumbest mistake of the week. It was a great tool, built on trust and humor,” said Shelley.

Future KM trends identified by the conference speakers include a continuing emphasis on collaboration, alignment with business strategy, blend with analytics and rise of the multigenerational workforce.

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