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Welcome (and thanks for your question on the SIKM Leaders call recently too).
Your point is well made and relevant. To me it reinforces the validity of the concept of a Knowledge Continuum.
Lets explore a little, then come back to the connection…
Consider “white light”: our (normal) eyes see white light, but in reality it is a spectrum of a multitude of visible colours ranging from purple through to red. Close up, at any point on this spectrum we can “see” a particular colour. However, if we shift up or down the spectrum just a little the colour changes through the rainbow. Different people are more apt as seeing some colours than other colours (because we are different and we have preferences). If we step right back, we get the bigger picture of all the colours, which merge together to show as white. If we change the incident light on a white background, it interferes with what can be reflected back to us, so we only see a subset of the full “truth” we are looking at. The key point here is it is hard for anyone to fully understand the detailed perspective AND the bigger picture (without considerable investment of time, which most senior people cannot give to a knowledge manager).
Knowledge is like this. Our current knowledge (limitations), cultural norms and subconscious biases are like in the incident light. They filter out what we are capable of seeing/understanding, unless there is some sort of disruption that breaks out the flow into less entangled components. A disruption (a different way of viewing the situation) enables us to see individual elements of the “knowledge” (like water diffracting white light into a rainbow). The breakout of the signals we are now receiving can be interpreted for a deeper reflection and greater understanding. However, if we only see the different colours, we can miss the bigger picture (recombined as white light – or even in a slightly modified form).
The key point here is focus on the key knowledge component that impacts the sort term quick win to secure attention and support. Ensure you speak “business language” not KM dialect.
When we assess knowledge we sometimes focus in to see individual components, but mis the whole. OR we see the whole, but miss the components. It is important to assess situations from a range of perspectives, top down and bottom up and in between, to get a multifaceted understanding of the situation (systems perspective). I understand this can be challenging to get people who think convergently to understand. However, this is why complex approaches o resolving challenges work far better than trying to oversimplify the situation and “find THE answer” approaches. Reality is, “THE (existing) answer” may work to a degree, but is probably inadequate for the new challenges you face. The light metaphor will also probably not work on a senior business “leader”
He key point here is your stakeholders look to simplify the issue, not open it up to a range of possibilities – which makes them managers rather than leaders. If you can get them to change their focus a little, you can open their minds to alternatives. Mindset is critical!
The messaging of how knowledge can assist a leader to enhance performance is heavily influenced by the target audience. Find a metaphor that works for them to connect to wat you are saying. Use this to build their understanding in a way that highlights which elements of the knowledge will directly help their most pressing issues. Trying to explain the complexities of knowledge up front will not work (I know I have tried this too). Building a trusted relationship with key stakeholders over time (based on a series of successful initiatives applying knowledge to create value) will enable you to build the knowledge maturity of the stakeholders and the organisation over time. This is why quick wins are important as it provides you the kudos and flexibility to address some bigger longer term challenges based on the proven value they generate.
How does this relate back to the knowledge continuum - because your success is constantly mixing the tangible benefits you generate with the intangible aspects of relationships, trust, collaboration and social sharing of insights. Harmonising this “balance” shifts up and down the continuum depending on the moment. Get this “tweaking” right more often than not, will generate new knowledge and drive commitment to ongoing capability development/knowledge maturity. Once you are in the flow it accelerates, but remember managers are always looking for short term benefits (often at the expense of longer term outcomes), so maintain the flow in a balanced way. I have found the biggest challenge is maintaining the “sponsor” stakeholders over time. Organisations are in constant flux and the key players/sponsors come and go quickly. It is critical to be working across a number of key senior stakeholders developing your relationships with them as potential future sponsors and clients. This is because it is inevitable that some will change during your initiative (before it fully matures).
My the knowledge gods be with you 😊 (and a bit of luck).
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Author: KNOWledge SUCCESSion Sustained performance and capability growth through knowledge projects
Earlier Books: The Organizational Zoo (2007) & Being a Successful Knowledge Leader (2009)
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From: main@SIKM.groups.io <main@SIKM.groups.io> On Behalf Of John Carney
Sent: Saturday, 16 January 2021 9:38 PM
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Model of an intelligent knowledge extraction in organizations
I have only recently joined this Forum - after a number of years absence in formally working in the KM field - but seeing a name I recognise on the post (Hi Nick ;-)) has motivated me to contribute. Re the information vs (explicit) knowledge language debate it's an intractable issue for me and there will never be a right or wrong response, I think what's important is clarity of understanding in dealing with non expert 'clients' for want of a better term and speaking personally my observation is that the ambiguity is unhelpful. I have seen many strategy documents in Government that use the terms interchangeably that then confuses what folk are practically meant to do. I prefer to talk about IM and people/ social learning approaches - the latter being my predominant interest. I do accept that for most KM has now become synonymous with IM
Recognising that having only just joined this party it feels a tad disingenuous of me to challenge the very phrase that brings us together ;-) but I have always found the term Knowledge Management largely unhelpful to our cause - indeed I squirm with embarrassment when I have to introduce myself as KM Lead for Dstl as it doesn't really convey either what I think I am trying to do or what is attractive to the audience
I think some of the early commentators like Peter Drucker got it right when they spoke about the importance of managing people . In my context ( I respect that others might be different) the KM challenge remains a leadership one IMO.
I look forward to future interactions - in particular the peer assist discussion on learning lessons (thank you) - another example where there are multiple interpretations of the phrase
Kind Regards (and Happy New Year) John