Key Enablers For Real Knowledge Management
So many companies think they need a software application for knowledge management, when what they really need is a way to foster conversation and the free exchange of ideas between people. It’s not always easy, when people who are working on the same project are located in different parts of the world or traveling frequently, but it can be done.
|There is so much talk about adding social aspects to applications that it seems as though “followers” is now an important success metric in business. People and businesses pride themselves on the number of connections they are linked to or the number of followers they have, when what they should be focused on is ideas and engaging people in conversations about ideas. Great conversations can obviously occur face-to-face, but exchanging and growing ideas using electronic media can be equally effective.
No one individual will ever be as knowledgeable as a team or group, no matter what the topic is. Each individual has a unique way of looking at an idea or contributing to a project, based on that individual’s unique experiences and learning. Every individual’s contribution advances the knowledge of the entire group, bringing the team closer to an effective solution to a problem or an innovative product idea.
We know that knowledge only exists in the brains of people, so every conversation that involves an exchange of ideas creates new knowledge. True knowledge management isn’t software; knowledge management is creating an environment that is conducive to the free flow of conversation, information and ideas. It would more correctly be called idea management.|
To move an organization toward idea management, the organization needs to provide three key conversation enablers. 1. The organization must be open. Mistakes and failures should not be occasions for blame or faultfinding. They should be treated as learning experiences for all team members. Throughout a project, everyone should be free to discuss the need for resources or tools to accomplish the assignment, and all information should be shared freely. Only when the organization is open and non-threatening will conversation produce knowledge and ideas. 2. The organization must allow participants the opportunity to meet Meetings can be a group of people at a conference table, a hallway conversation, or a response to a thoughtful blog post. The point is that conversations can take many forms. An organization that is serious about creating new knowledge will ensure that members have the ability to meet and exchange ideas. With today’s far-flung teams and heavy travel schedules, it’s not always easy to ensure that people engage in conversation. The organization must provide tools to enable the exchange of ideas even when people cannot meet in person. Whether this is electronic meeting software, excellent speaker phones, a chat room or something else altogether is irrelevant. The point is to provide the right tools, provide excellent training in the use of the tools, and promote the use of the tools through words and by example. 3. Diversity of thought leads to innovation Respect for individuals is the basic building block to fostering diversity. People must be comfortable knowing they can share ideas and thoughts without fear of ridicule. The organization needs to make allowances for different personalities, languages and communications styles. All people have valuable ideas. It is up to the organization to ensure that it is a safe environment for people to express their ideas.
It is precisely the differences in people’s backgrounds and experiences that make knowledge sharing so valuable and that result in innovation and brilliant thinking. True knowledge management is constructing an organization with the tools and attitudes to share learning and ideas so that each member’s knowledge on a topic is increased, and so innovative ideas can emerge.
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