Say 'knowledge management' to most people in our business and watch the curl of their lips. It seems to be a 'given' that KM is dead. The usual reason given is that knowledge sits between our ears, so how the heck can it be managed? Even those who are prepared to stretch the definition a little bit into 'information' are still inclined to question the value of the stored information. I mean, what information is readily given up and what's its half-life anyway?
A few months ago, I stumbled across a US/Indian IT services company called MindTree. It has a Chief Knowledge Officer called Raj Datta. Expecting the worst, I spoke to him and was somewhat astonished to learn that he has taken a lifecycle approach to knowledge management. He recognises that it does live between people's ears. But he also recognises that it can be shared through social tools. The result is an organisation which spends a lot of time, energy and money on the most important bit of knowledge management, its creation in the first place.
Staff are introduced to many thinking and idea generation tools – from De Bono's Six Thinking Hats to mind-mapping. Through workshops and discussion groups, they can learn about many thinking concepts, developing their minds and their ability to innovate. Without creation, knowledge/information capture is merely ossifying the past.
Staff, called 'Minds' incidentally, are then given a wide choice of social and collaboration tools, from blogs through wikis to discussion groups, and more. They are also given a physical workplace which encourages planned and serendipitous encounters.
The astonishing thing about this company is that it was implementing these ideas and blending them with its traditional KM/content management systems while most companies were still trying to figure out the relevance of social networking. MindTree turns out to have been something of a pioneer.
By joining the dots and ensuring that the complete knowledge lifecycle is supported: from inception, to storage, to sharing, to reuse, it provides the KM world an intelligent and holistic way forward.
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