I saw it coming in 2011. But no one believed me. I guess it's difficult to turn your back on something that you fervently believe in. At this point, I feel like Harry Markopolos who had been telling people that there was something wrong with Bernie Madoff -- before the truth came to light.

I know I'd probably receive hate emails and death threats for saying it. But the truth has to be surfaced. And I will say it:

Knowledge Management (KM) - as we know it - is dying.
KM in 2012? Dead probably.”

Keep your cool. I know the above statements are pretty emotional - especially if you have invested in a KM education (like I did) or if your livelihood depends on it (i.e. you are a KM consultant).

Allow me to share my views on what caused KM to be dying and what the future holds for KM.

What Caused the Decline of KM

The biggest problem with KM is it is too broadly defined. Too many KMers step forward and offer their version of KM (check out my version of KM). And as a result, KM is pulled in different directions. To make matters worse, these different versions add up and give the impression that KM is the super-antidote that can solve every panacea in the vast world of management and leadership.

Umm, you have problems in leadership? Oh, the management should have paid more attention to KM. You have problems in employee retention/engagement? Oh, KM can solve it. You've got problems in customer satisfaction? Well, KM is the solution (is it?). I can go on and on about this, but you get the picture: KM becomes stretched far beyond what it can realistically achieve.

Is it true that KM is the super-antidote of the management world? I don't think so (and I think many KMers would agree with me).

Whoever thinks that KM is the super-antidote is delusional -- just like Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon imagining invincible, invisible soldiers in 2001.

Alas, it is too late to correct people's impressions of KM. We probably can't do it anyway, because we can't even agree on which version of KM is the correct one. For far too long, people's expectations of KM are inflated. And needless to say, we have failed to meet those inflated, unrealistic expectations. People get disappointed with KM and decide to move on. Which results in the decline of KM.

In short, KM collapses under its own weight (the inflated, unrealistic expectations). And the constant bickering among KMers, on who offers the most correct version of KM, expedites the decline of KM.

Good Bye KM, Hello Social Business

To me, KM -- as we know it -- is finished. It's going to die. It'll probably be dead before the end of 2012.

Learning Opportunities

That's a horrible thing to say, I know. But I also know that KM is going to be reborn. It is going to be reborn into something related -- but different from KM as we know it.

What is KM going to be reborn into? I only have one answer to this: Social Business. This isn't a product of my imagination. You probably notice five big trends that slowly but surely are morphing KM into Social Business:

  • Proliferation and rapid adoption of social technology, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Sharepoint.
  • Proliferation and rapid adoption of mobile platform, e.g. iPad, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy tab and other tablet devices.
  • Increasing adoption of cloud technology. To reduce cost, many organizations are moving their intranets to the cloud. This hastens the adoption of social media and mobile gadgets.
  • Application of Big Data to Business Intelligence. Social technology and mobile platform make collection of big data possible. Big data, in the hands of a talented Chief Data Officer, can be turned into powerful business intelligence.
  • The rise of Gen-Y in organizations. Gen-Y was born digital. Instinctively, they know what social business is, and are bringing the concept to life in their workplace.

Some major social business vendors, like Jive software, or even corporate microblogging platforms like Yammer and Present.ly, have picked up the trends and designed their product to meet growing needs:integration between social intranet (a KM platform, e.g. Sharepoint) and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).

The point is, the above five trends blur the line between internal communities and external ones. And this makes the inward-looking KM obsolete (KM traditionally manages internal communities and knowledge sharing within the organization).

Are you going to embrace the change and transform KM into social business? I'll leave that to you.

What do you think about KM and its future? What should we do to prevent inflated expectations of social business? Share your views in the comment box below.

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