In their recent Harvard Business Review article, Help Employees Create Knowledge—Not Just Share It, John Hagel III and John Seely Brown argue “the most valuable form of learning today is actually creating new knowledge.” Traditional KM systems represented a huge leap forward in terms of making explicit knowledge accessible and structured, but what knowledge management strategies and applications do we need in today’s business environment in order to maximize the intersection of knowledge and learning?
The three main takeaways from Mr. Hagel’s and Mr. Seely Brown’s article are:
- Everything is in a state of change, all the time; organizational strategies for learning and knowledge sharing must take that into account.
- Simply looking inward is insufficient for performance improvement; we must develop a “broader ecosystem of organizations… to mobilize the relevant expertise and talent…”
- A focus on underlying capabilities is more important than a skills-based approach to success.
The authors put forth five distinctions between the existing “scalable efficiency” approach to knowledge management and “…a more nimble kind of scalable learning.” In brief,
- “Scalable learning focuses on creating environments where new tacit knowledge can be created and evolve as workers confront new situations.”
- “If you just focus on the people within your organization, you will likely confront serious limitations to the ability to scale learning.”
- “Scalable learning shifts the focus to learning in the work environment as new performance challenges arise…effectively [delivering] performance improvement on the spot through new approaches…”
- “As the world changes, what used to work in the past may no longer work.”
- “While skills are still necessary for success, the focus should shift to cultivating the underlying capabilities that can accelerate learning so that new skills can be more rapidly acquired. These capabilities include curiosity, critical thinking, willingness to take risk, imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence.”
We all know that knowledge management is not technology, it is a process. However, technology tools are essential to actualizing knowledge management, knowledge exchange and now, knowledge creation. In order for a KM system to help employees create knowledge, it must:
- enable real time capture and sharing of tacit knowledge in addition to explicit knowledge
- integrate with other relevant knowledge and information sources outside the confines of the organization for a 360-degree view
- allow for granular permissions management so that experts can participate in one another’s enterprise online communities and build a “knowledge ecosystem of interest”
- allow users to easily evaluate and prioritize content and knowledge for others’ benefit
- offer version history so that the progression of knowledge development and learning is visible and tangible
Knowledge and learning are twins and do not exist without each other. In today’s faster-paced world of work, supporting KM technologies must keep up with continuous change. They must also enable people to take ownership of knowledge creation—attribution as a thought leader and peer mentor is a powerful way to spur adoption.