Knowledge Management – where is the value?

I work with businesses that recognise that;

Knowledge has value

They want to harness it for the benefit of the business. But when I ask them what they mean by knowledge management;

They often don’t know

So I ask if they are looking for business value by helping their people to build up more tacit knowledge in their heads. Or are they looking to harvest knowledge that is in their peoples’ heads? So they can then make it available to others in some ‘expressed’ form.

Often it is the latter. There tends to be a fear that tacit knowledge represents a risk to the business because it leaves when the person who has it does. ‘Retention’ (or lack of it) is one of the biggest problems for businesses in the current era of relative economic prosperity and a shortage of skills.

Companies frequently turn to the corporate toolset to look for knowledge management. Can they create a repository where their staff will willingly handover what they know to the corporate librarian? Then they can store it safely and ‘signpost’ within the firm ‘who knows what’ and;

‘Who knows what about who?’

Whether such knowledge management toolsets are successful will depend on how they make key business decisions?

What is the culture of the firm?

Do they believe in co-location of their staff so that they can organically share and build knowledge around the decision to be made. Or do they encourage a more individual approach where knowledge workers are encouraged to work wherever suits them best. And then to communicate with their peers through a collaboration support tool (file share, video conferencing, blogs etc).

If you are a technology firm of some years standing you are likely to have processes in place to capture intellectual property created in the business. Typically through formal means such as patents or registered designs. Often such companies offer direct incentives to staff for formally expressing their knowledge that has value. But what about the vast majority of companies where the knowledge that adds business value is all about who you know? Whether it’s in the sales process or the sourcing process. How do they ensure that staff change their behaviours and co-operate with the system that makes the business less reliant on them staying?

Our answer?

Invest in a business change strategy that embeds the behaviours required. Make sure the decisions you take in implementing it are designed to achieve your goal through Business Decision Design®

I wish you a sunny but crisp week.

Picture link!

Nigel

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