Chris Collison (which I keep wanting to read as collision for reasons that will soon become apparent) is a KM consultant and author who will be speaking to 600 law librarians on the subject of mapping the KM landscape. It’s a fertile and provocative analogy, and was the focus of today’s KMers.org tweet chat.
Collison suggests that the highway represents the mainstream tools, techniques and functionality that are widely regarded as intrinsic to any decent KM environment. But you also find winding country roads that take you off the beaten track but are worth the detour. And occasionally you are delighted to discover a spectacular view open up while exploring some uncharted corner of the world.
There are also parallel routes — canals and railways which might compete with or provide an option to the highway. And finally there are the swamps, quicksand and dead-ends that we wish we had never turned into.
I was dumbstruck when Collison asked the group what the highways consisted of, and very quickly the answers that came back were technology solutions. KM is much bigger and broader than any wiki, blog or discussion forum. It’s bigger than Sharepoint or Yammer. It involves first and foremost the people. Engaging people, giving them a reason to share their knowledge and expertise. Making sense of KM so that they can answer the WIIFM* question.
I wrote about this a couple weeks ago after I read Nick Milton’s post on Knowledge Management before IT. KM isn’t really anything new. We’ve been doing it for centuries. We may have called is something different, but the key need was the same; to pass knowledge from one person to another.
Simon Burnett summed up the risk with “shiny objects” (i.e. cool tools) nicely:
So many IT-led KM initiatives have failed, mainly because of their focus on the tools. Which led me to think. The tools we use to manage knowledge are analogous to the car that we use to drive down that KM highway. There are all kinds of cars. Expensive cars. Fast cars. Sexy cars. Safe cars. SUVs. And even plain cars. Any of them (assuming proper working order) can get you from Point A to Point B. Possessing the car, even a top of the line model, will not help you reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.
The kind of car you drive matters much less than having well-defined goals and a plan to reach them. Without a plan, that shiny car will just help you reach your dead-end faster.
Join the Discussion
Are you involved in knowledge management? Join the discussion at KMers.org each Tuesday on Twitter. You can view the upcoming schedule and learn how to participate at KMers.org. Thanks to Chris Collison for moderating this week’s discussion (and good luck on your keynote!), and thanks to Jeffrey Brandt, Randy Ramsey, Leonard Kish, Mary Abraham, Tom Menke, Matthew Loxton, Roxanna Samii and many others for the stimulating discussion on the KM landscape.
And special thanks to Stan Garfield for his Trackback Tuesday tweet:
Photo credit: Benny Lin
*What’s In It For Me?