This is Not your Father’s Knowledge Management!

Reflect on Friedman’s concept of the triple convergence and its relationship to knowledge management.  If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management? 

As the United Sates moved from an industrial to a service economy, knowledge management became a key competitive advantage and forward thinking organizations continuously advance organizational knowledge practices to compete in the marketplace.  In essence, Dixon (2009) describes knowledge management as evolving from repositories to communities of practice to collective knowledge.  In this new paradigm of collective knowledge, knowledge management is collaborative effort that permeates an entire organization.  Dixon (2009) explains collective knowledge is integrating ideas through conversation whether in person or virtual from multiple perspectives; Friedman’s (2007) convergence to a flat platform enabled by the internet and sound business practices marries well with collective knowledge.  To illustrate, social media enables conversation because many organizations have global operations and therefore employ people all over the world.  For these organizations, geography is a barrier to collaboration and the internet links these employees to provide diversity of thought in the knowledge management process.  Likewise, technologies such as skype enable conversations to happen across the globe.  Dixon (2009) also provides organizations facing adaptive challenges, which lack a defined solution, look to entities outside its walls such as customers, suppliers, or experts from different disciplines.  These web tools of social media and skype easily enable conversations with these outside entities in the knowledge management process.

Friedman (2007) provides another convergence as several billion people in China, India, and the Soviet Union available to collaborate on knowledge management.  However, a limitation in this convergence (Friedman, 2007) is the information is dated.  Bringing this convergence (Friedman, 2007) forward to today, as more people from developing countries come online, they can converse with the developed world.

Applying knowledge management to the author of this blog’s own organization of employment, he sees evidence of practices because his company uses a knowledge management repository and shares information through communities of practice.  For routine tasks with known solutions (Dixon, 2009), employees at his organization access a repository to obtain standard operating procedures; an example is when his company receives a withdrawal request from an investor’s retirement account, employees access standard operating procedures to process the transaction.  For adaptive challenges, employees use communities of practice by discussing the situation in open forums with peers to leverage the group’s experience to suggest solutions.  However, the author does not witness his organization leveraging the latest in knowledge management.  To illustrate, his company does not use social media in the knowledge management process.  Moreover, Dixon (2009) provides transparency involves a leader acknowledges they do not have the answer.  Conversely, the author’s organization uses a top-down structure where the CEO provides goals and employees carry out the marching orders.  The author’s observation is that his CEO would never admit in front of employees that he does have the answers!

Because knowledge is socially developed, leadership’s role is to put structure in place to ensure the knowledge management process transpires.  Dixon (2009) states knowledge management leaders are responsible for identifying adaptive challenges and convening conversations with the right people to tackle the issues.  Honest information from employees is the lifeblood to this process and leaders build trust in an organization by promoting an environment where information exchanges easily and free from repercussion.  To reiterate, the internet accomplishes the flow of information by enabling employees to share information and thereby break down hierarchical walls.  Looking into the horizon, the internet and technology continue to evolve.  Who knows what the next technology will be?  To advance an organization, leaders should find ways to leverage technology strategically to facilitate organizational sharing of information.  A leader’s responsibility is to make sure the process happens!

References

Dixon, N. (2009, July 30). Knowledge Management [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/07/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-three.html

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

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10 thoughts on “This is Not your Father’s Knowledge Management!

  1. I found your post this week to be very insightful. I agree with your thoughts about the leader in k.m. I am curious about your organization’s communities of practice. Is this done face to face? Via a webtool? It is similar to the interdisciplinary treatment teams in my mental health organization. We are a small organization and I think everyone enjoys the live contact to process difficult problems. I am wondering if there is a good enough web tool that would ever replace our meetings.
    Bonny

    • Hi Bonny, Thank you for your comments. We do our communities of practice face to face. The blog topic for this week opened my eyes to the idea of using internet technologies and I am going to inquire with my organization. Are you aware of any tools? Regards, Peter

  2. Hi Peter,
    Your thoughts on the knowledge management responsibilities of service companies, reminds me of the importance of managing software revisions as we handle thousands of upgrade for our customers. We need to have the right people and the right practices in place to prevent costly mistakes. With today’s business that is fast paced, it is easy to miss a small step and load the wrong firmware on thousands of units. As you pointed out, it is the leader’s responsibility to make sure the right process happens. It is also true that it takes the leadership to promote the knowledge sharing and collaboration among different geographical regions. In a technical environment, engineers don’t always think about collaboration except with people within their circle of influence; however, management relates technical expertise in one area as an opportunity for growth and expansion in a different area. Excellent job on identifying the role of the leader on knowledge management and hi-lighting how technology should be used to facilitate collaboration. On the CEO piece, I must give credit to the CEOs who make quick decisions and move forward. They don’t debate too much on which is more economical or whether they should take action. They make decision based on best practices and move on to the next decision where some employees debates and ponder for a long time before they make a decision, by then project is behind schedule.
    Thank you for your blog Peter,
    Mo

    • Hi Mo, Thank you for your comments! In particular, your thoughts on CEOs was nice to hear! I often think my organization does not allow employees to participate enough in activities like knowledge management. Your experience with engineers sounds very similar to the IT employees at my company! Regards, Peter

  3. Peter- I was looking at your employer online, and it looks like it has a presence on several social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and a blog. The company states that its social media presence enables customers to see what other investors have to say, get tips on saving and investing, and read financial news and company views. You mentioned that your employer does not use social media in the knowledge management process. In your opinion, how does your company use social media? Do they use it effectively or ineffectively? If you oversaw social media, what would you differently? Thanks for the insights you shared in your post. -Rob

    • Hi Rob, Thank you for your post! I have to admit I had a blind spot when it came to my company and social media in the knowledge management process. I was looking at social media under the lens of connecting employees to employees and not the organization to customers. You got me to reflect upon my assumption. To answer your question, my company uses social media primarily as a tool to market the company. However, I surmise that we do analyze the data for trends and hence the knowledge management application. May I redact my original posting and propose that I state that my company does not leverage the internet to link employees in the knowledge management process? However, it does to link to customers! Thanks for getting me to look at the issue through another lens! Regards, Peter

      • Not too unusual…I would submit that most companies currently use social media as a broadcast medium…a form of advertisement. They have yet in most cases to have figured out how to make it interactive and value-added.

      • Hi Dr. Watwood, I did some research and my company does not use social media in the knowledge management process and more for marketing just as you indicated below. Regards, Peter

  4. The Finance sector seems like a natural fit for expanded use of knowledge management. You certainly are one of the greatest users of technology. I wonder whether the rapid growth of technology in finance in recent years – such as algorithmic trading/high frequency trading – has increased the need for sharing knowledge ? Does the heightened concern for internal financial risk management require greater knowledge management in your sector ?

    • Hi Jvap. I agree completely! The financial risks require effective knowledge management to ensure the funds are managed for returns while managing risks at the same time. Our traders and fund managers share knowledge on risk management all the time! The rapid growth in technology has enabled our company to thrive! Thanks for your thoughts! Peter

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