Who's who? More than anything else, staff want to get in touch with other staff. Most organizations are poor at facilitating such interactions.Much has been made of knowledge management over the years. We're all living in the knowledge society and economy and we're all knowledge workers. But what is the foundation-the corner stone-of knowledge management?
There are two basic types of knowledge. Formal knowledge is found in books, reports and videos (this is what we call content). Informal knowledge resides in the head of the knowledge worker.
In a typical organization, it is often the informal knowledge that is the most valuable. It makes the sale, delivers the service, solves the support call, builds the brand. You just need to get to talk to the right person, quickly.
In the past, most organizations had pretty good solutions for the transfer of informal knowledge. The basic system was called apprenticeship, but there were many other structures put in place to make sure you got to talk to the right person.
Times have changed. The efficient transfer of informal knowledge now has to meet the following challenges:
# The apprenticeship model has severely declined, if not become extinct in many organizations
# The person you need to talk to is quite possibly not in the same physical place as you are. (Historically, most of the people you needed were within walking distance.)
# The person you need to talk to left last week. Who else really knows about this stuff?
# Skills and knowledge keeps changing. The best person for this job only became the 'best person' four months ago. Outside her small team, nobody else knows that she's so good.
# Managers and other senior knowledge workers used to have support staff to help them find who they needed. Not anymore.
There is nothing more important for a knowledge organization than to quickly and efficiently connect the right people. It's the foundation-the corner stone-of knowledge management. It is the foundation for success of the company of today-let alone the company of tomorrow. So, why do so many organizations do such a bloody awful job of it?
Because management is living in the past. It thinks the old networks and structures are sufficient to allow for the efficient flow of informal knowledge. That is simply not the case. And senior managers are often blind to the growing problem because for them it is not a problem.
I heard one CEO comment that he had no problem finding other people. That's because his search engine was his secretary.
Time and time again, I have seen organizations invest heavily in intranet technologies, while almost totally ignoring the vital processes required to make the intranet a success. Basic staff directories are woefully maintained. Experts have no incentive to enter their details into 'expert databases'.
To efficiently allow one knowledge worker find another, quality content is now required. In a modern organization, a skill or piece of knowledge that is not formally recorded is very difficult to communicate.
At the most basic level connecting two people means having an email address or telephone number. And if the telephone number is wrong ...