Making the Case for Knowledge Management

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Mining for Knowledge

This is a post from my internal company blog, with certain information redacted. Did I make a convincing case?

Your knowledge is an asset, both to you and the company you work for. Every day we apply our knowledge, share it with our colleagues, and gain more of it through experience and training. These activities help us to get better at what we do and help the company in a variety of different ways, whether it’s building a software system, hunting down a replacement touring coach, designing a new brochure or answering a customer’s query. So it stands to reason that we should put our best efforts into improving the way we gain, share, and apply knowledge within and between our teams and departments as this supports us all doing a better job across the board.

The concept of “Knowledge Management” has been around since the early 90’s. Wikipedia describes it thus:

Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice.

As many of you know by now, [the company] has decided to solve the problem of Knowledge Management using a specific type of collaboration tool – a wiki. Here’s a short video on why a wiki so much better than more traditional communication such as email.

Wikis in Plain English

A subtle but fundamentally important aspect I want to point out is the propensity for knowledge to snowball when put on the wiki. Did you notice how, in the above video, once Mary had entered a few camping items to begin with, the users after her entered more items under the “We Need” list while adding what they’d bring under the “We Have” list. Reading some information that was already on the wiki very often encourages people to add their own updates or corrections (benefiting their colleagues with that information) that they wouldn’t necessarily add on their own. This exponential nature of building up knowledge means that we should put every effort into putting what we know on the wiki, as before long we will have an information resource that is far greater than the sum of its parts! For the academic background on this, see Nonaka and Takeuchi’s Knowledge Spiral.

With on-demand access to managed knowledge (by managed we mean up-to-date, searchable/accessible, relevant, contextual to our daily tasks, etc), each workplace situation is no longer faced with only our own knowledge and experience to hand (and perhaps those sitting right next to us), but also the knowledge and experience of our colleagues right across the organisation too, through project summaries, technical documentation, experience reports, FAQs, etc all appearing on the wiki. This way we can bring to bear a wider range of knowledge and experience to solving everyday problems in the workplace.

Headshift founder Lee Bryant talks about the online management of knowledge

I hope I’ve made it clearer how we all benefit from adding our own knowledge to the wiki. Any comments/suggestions on how we can make the wiki easier and better to use are always welcome, and I am always available to answer any questions regarding “KM” or wiki-usage.

“Knowledge is Power”

– Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, essayist and scientist

Further Reading:

Knowledge Management – Wikipedia

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