The standard approach to knowledge management is on its way out. Simply inventorying a company's documented knowledge has been inefficient and ineffective. The step that has been missing is, ironically, the actual management of the knowledge: determining what knowledge is essential, gathering it, codifying it, and ensuring that it is distributed and/or accessible to the people who need it the most, whenever they need it.
With the widespread experimentation and initial successes using Learning 2.0 tools, learning leaders now have the opportunity to demonstrate how, using new technologies, corporate knowledge can be captured and leveraged to improve company performance. By setting the stage with planning tools such as a knowledge management map, learning leaders can also present a business case for investing resources in an Enterprise 2.0 platform in which both tacit and explicit knowledge can be shared across the organization for strategic advantage.
The line between knowledge management and social learning within organizations is becoming very blurred. The capability of social collaboration and community platforms to share files, co-create documents, and ask questions of experts within the company can serve — and is serving — as a form of knowledge management in and of itself. With a powerful search engine, not only can relevant files be pulled up, but so can blog posts, video clips, discussion posts, podcasts, and any other shared bits of information.
As a prime example, Shell launched a corporate wiki in 2007 to serve as an internal encyclopedia for Shell-specific knowledge. Their goal with this tool was to enable faster competency development by allowing for global access to critical information on an as-needed basis. As with Wikipedia, anyone within Shell can create and edit articles, and the site has a powerful search engine so that topics of interest can be found quickly and easily. The learning organization utilizes the Shell Wiki by loading all course content, case studies, marketing, and glossaries so that everyone has access to all formal course information regardless of whether they can attend the actual learning event or not. The Shell learning team has created a learning ecosystem that combines learning content management with knowledge management, adding the Shell Wiki, Shell Tube (its video sharing platform) and discussion forums to its traditional learning content; this combination provides a comprehensive and dynamic knowledge base that is able to keep up with the speed of change.
Recently, Harvard Business Review posted an article online entitled "Are You Wasting Money on Useless Knowledge Management?" The article presents a process of mapping the "blocks" of knowledge that are essential to business competitive performance. The output is a grid set along two dimensions: 1) the level of codification (tacit to explicit) and 2) the level of diffusion of that knowledge within and outside the organization (few "holders" of knowledge internally to many "holders" of knowledge externally). See a sample of this map below:
|Source: Harvard Business Review, "Are You Wasting Money on Useless Knowledge Management" http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/01/are_you_wasting_money_on_usele.html|
A knowledge management map such as this will allow the learning leader to determine what critical knowledge needs to be shared more, where more tacit knowledge is needed, and what tacit knowledge needs to be codified so that they can be accessed and understood by others within the enterprise. This process focuses resource investment in knowledge management and maximizes its impact on the business.
With the completed knowledge management map, learning leaders can build a business case for an Enterprise 2.0 platform. By presenting the specific, critical blocks of knowledge identified as needing to be diffused and/or codified to benefit the company, the learning leader will establish that the Enterprise 2.0 efforts would be addressing key business needs, so as to avoid being dismissed as an unnecessary training expense. Here's where you may want to find a couple of early adopters in the business, people who have struggled to get key information out to their team because they can help you identify and prioritize blocks that are tied to improving company performance in that business unit. If you combine this focused, practical application with due diligence through the form of case studies and benchmarking results, you can make a strong case to clarify how a corporate-wide Enterprise 2.0 platform can and has been used to strategically manage and broaden corporate knowledge bases to meet corporate objectives and how this can be applied as a pilot project effectively at your company.
When building your case to decision makers, remember to connect experiences of other companies to yours wherever possible. An effective business case presents the opportunity statement, two or three alternatives (as well as the business objectives and performance metrics chosen to compare these options), a summary of the costs and benefits, initial recommendations, associated risks and how to mitigate them, a table of high-level milestones (including dates, assignments and resources), and a wrap-up on how your recommendation to roll out these knowledge blocks will benefit the organization.
By identifying key, critical knowledge to the company rather than a general desire for knowledge sharing, learning leaders have a greater chance to convince executives that social media can provide the working knowledge needed to innovate, service, and perform. As you make these plans, you may want to consider whether your company currently has a knowledge management system in place; if so, it will be crucial for a learning leader to partner with those that oversee this system, to help them understand your approach and work together to connect it, coherently and cohesively, to the overarching knowledge management strategy. Connecting with them before you suggest the pilot will help you secure their support later. Because when the pilot you suggested shows promising results, you'll need to work with them to help suggest a long-term approach: assessing the current state of knowledge management technologies in use, identifying redundant systems or support processes, and generating the plan for an integrated, seamless user experience with this platform in place.
This article supports the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence - Organize (Technology and Infrastructure).
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