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Rewilding knowledge: sense-making in a world of uncertainty at KMWorld Connect 2021

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At KMWorld Connect 2021,Thursday’s keynote kicked off with Dave Snowden, chief scientific officer, Cognitive Edge, who discussed the concept of "rewilding."

Rewilding has been described as the optimistic agenda for halting the decline in biodiversity and restoring a balanced suite of ecosystem services.

Snowden has been focusing on organizational knowledge ecosystems and how to optimize them for innovation and success. It’s going back to basics, not a return to the original, but a rebalancing of knowledge management to recognize the key role of humans, including distributed intelligence and sense-making.

“The function of knowledge management is not just to manage knowledge, we need to focus on the goal of knowledge management to improve the way people make decisions,” Snowden said.

What Snowden has found is KM has focused more on the technology in modern times instead of the interactions between people, he said.

“You need that social context to trigger people telling stories, that are a critical aspect of knowledge,” Snowden said.

He explained a situation where he helped a company institute a KM system with the pivotal component being employee/user collaboration and knowledge sharing.

“We took this idea from constructive theory from physics,” Snowden said. “It starts off with defining what isn’t possible, then identifying the constructor. You identify what’s already there and then you identify what you can change.”

The key to managing silo issues isn’t by breaking them down, it’s to increase the informal networks arcos the silos, he noted.

Part of the function of KM is to build and create informal networks. Mapping where you don’t want to go is easier than mapping where you do want to go, you can get consensus quickly, he said.

“People learn more from failure than they learn from success,” Snowden said. “Gathering stories of failure is a key aspect of any knowledge management program.”

It's not to work out in advance what knowledge you want, you need to create mechanisms by which people can collect and swarm very quickly to solve problems where they needed.

“So, most human innovation doesn't come from inventing things from scratch, it comes from repurposing the things we're already good at to do something completely novel,” Snowden said.

KMWorld Connect 2021 is going on this week, November 15-18, with workshops on Friday, November 19. On-demand replays of sessions will be available for a limited time to registered attendees and many presenters are also making their slide decks available through the conference portal. Access to session archives will be available on or about November 29, 2021, so be sure to check back for on-demand replays. For more information, go to www.kmworld.com/conference/2021.

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