Knowledge Management

The Real Work of Knowledge Management

Trying to imagine the amount of information available to us today thanks to technology is like trying to imagine how many stars are in the sky. Knowing which information is both accurate and most helpful to us is an ongoing challenge, and knowledge management (KM) is how we take up that challenge. Margaret Wheatley reflects in an article on how we can hope to navigate knowledge management in these changing times.

To Wheatley, having KM means that the organization knows how to convert information into knowledge, knows what it knows, and can act with greater intelligence and discernment as a result. She notes that there are beliefs that can prevent KM, some of which beget others:

  • Organizations are machines.
  • Only material things are real.
  • Only numbers are real.
  • You can only manage what you can measure.
  • Technology is always the best solution.

Organizations are people first and foremost, not machines, and new technology will not guarantee better results. Trying to make abstract ideas like “commitment” into a tangible form by concocting a unit to measure them does not mean that the data obtained will be useful either. Rather, Wheatley counters with principles that she believes do facilitate KM:

  • Knowledge is created by human beings.
  • It is natural for people to create and share knowledge.
  • Everybody is a knowledge worker.
  • People choose to share their knowledge.
  • Knowledge management is not about technology.
  • Knowledge is born in chaotic processes that take time.

In talking about the third principle regarding knowledge workers, she also does a good job of summarizing the importance of several of the others:

This statement was an operating principle of one of my clients. If everybody is assumed to be creating knowledge, then the organization takes responsibility for supporting all its workers, not just a special few. It makes certain that everyone has easy access to anyone, anywhere in the organization, because you never know who has already invented the solution you need.
The full article goes into great detail about all of the beliefs and principles noted here, and just as an astrolabe will help you chart the stars, so too will this article help you plot your knowledge management.

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