Many information professionals continue to ask “What is IM and what is KM?” “Where does the first stop and the other begin?” Let’s have some fun with this question and look at an example from our work with knowledge management clients.
Understand and codify
One project we were involved with was a “lessons learned” repository. We were working with a very successful entertainment company, and they had a very well-developed post-production discovery process to help them understand and codify lessons learned during the creation of a new show. They would assemble the directors, the producers, the actors, the writers, et al. and conduct extensive interviews, which were video-taped. Questions included “Where did key inspirations come from?” and “How did you overcome key technical hurdles?” and so on. The motivation was to capture critical IP that would allow the company to make great shows in the future.
Share the Wealth
Their KM project started with a key recognition: “We need the lessons learned to have wider impact on the creation of new shows.” The lessons, it turned out, had been tightly guarded secrets that only top management were able to access. In this spirit, the entertainment company developed a KM strategy where lessons would infuse and inform every new show being produced, sharing the information with everyone responsible for creating new shows. The approach was very successful and the lessons—previously curated and physically captured on DVDs—were reorganized into bite sized sessions that could be accessed anywhere and by anyone. Better decisions were made, and more innovative shows produced. KM was achieved.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
So which activities are IM and which are KM? It seems clear that without a lot of really good IM no KM would have been possible. So, are lessons knowledge? Yes, since lessons are the codification of knowledge. They are the result of the synthesis of lots of information, combined with inspiration, experimentation, trial and error, etc. But what pops out is knowledge—not just more information.
Here’s a useful metaphor: E=MC2. In this equation, C is the speed of light (which in a vacuum travels at 671 million miles per hour). This is information. But the equation itself is knowledge. It took Albert Einstein many years of sweat, collaboration, and inspiration to come up with this simple but powerful equation. That is a KM process. Working with information to produce knowledge.
Think about it this way. If we put both the definition of C and E=MC2 into two time-capsules and shot them into space the aliens who got the definition of C would say “not very impressive for folks who can build a rocket ship.” The aliens who got E=MC2 would say “hey, those folks might have a clue!”
Knowledge managers must establish links between different groups; this is boundary spanning; enabling discovery (learning from existing data) is key
Creating and executing a KM program plan involves implementing people, process, and technology knowledge flows that achieve objectives
How a KM program is governed is key to success. Knowledge managers should pay close attention to getting this right, and it will deliver results later.
Knowledge managers must define KM program governance, including team composition, virtual teams, and leader communities