Blog Post

The aim of Knowledge Management should be enabling better conversations

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 23 February 2012



The aim of Knowledge Management should be enabling better conversations
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 140
Posted DateThursday 23 February 2012 22:09 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesConversation; Information Management; Knowledge Cafe; Knowledge Management

One simple statement that differentiates Knowledge Management from Information Management is this:
Knowledge Management is practised through activities that support better decision-making.

Information Management is practised by improving the systems that store, capture and transmit information.

And as for a definition of knowledge
Knowledge is the ability to make effective decisions and take effective action.

Credit: Adapted from Peter Senge

This tallies nicely with my view and that held by many that knowledge only resides in our heads, everything captured or written down is just information.

For me, one of the clearest examples of IM verses KM, is my recent story about the work at the ING Bank Academy. There a small team of people gather articles and reports about relevant trends in management, banking and finance that may impact the bank. They then broadcast “Research Alerts” to interested parties by e-mail.

This sort of activity ifs often seen as a KM activity but it is not - it is IM. What's more, in most organisations such activity stops there. Getting information to people is seen as enough.

But at ING Bank, they go one critical step further - they help people make sense of the information. If the Alert deserves attention they host a Knowledge Café to discuss it's implications, impact, risks and opportunities and if need be to take action. This is clearly Knowledge Management. in fact, it's a conversation.
The characteristics of conversations map to the conditions for genuine knowledge generation and sharing: they're unpredictable interactions among people speaking in their own voice about something they're interested in. The conversants implicitly acknowledge that they don't have all the answers (or else the conversation is really a lecture) and risk being wrong in front of someone else. And conversations overcome the class structure of business, suspending the organization chart at least for a little while.

If you think about the aim of Knowledge Management as enabling better conversations rather than lassoing stray knowledge doggies, you end up focusing on breaking down the physical and class barriers to conversation. And if that's not what Knowledge Management is really about, then you ought to be doing it anyway.

More and more, I see KM as being about enabling conversations: "Business really is a conversation".

And this brings me to my Knowledge Cafe workshops.

I am running another one on 02 May 2012 in London. The workshop is not just about the Knowledge Cafe as a conversation or KM tool but explores the broader role of conversation in business; its relevance and importance.

Do come along if you are interested and join the conversation. You'll find more information here.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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