Knowledge management – is the hype over?

There’s been some talk about knowledge management becoming a thing of the past…

KM is not passé, but has been through the hype cycle. To quote Gartner Group, I would say we are on the “plateau of productivity” meaning organizations are more realistic about what they can achieve with KM and the vendors have for the most part abandoned the term for more fertile buzzword territory.

Organizations were burned by KM programs that were too far removed from the work. In some situations, the KM function became too strategic and not tactical enough – so lots of ruminations about the nature of knowledge and collaboration and not enough action. KM was not tied to bottom line business results.

I agree that KM is a discipline, as opposed to an individual approach, tool or process.

I almost never use the term “knowledge management” and instead try to describe the project in terms of what we are trying to accomplish and how related “knowledge processes” will support the goal, etc.

Instead, I use terms like supporting, managing, improving, facilitating and developing, combined with terms like intellectual capital, intellectual property, collaboration, knowledge processes, content processes, knowledge discovery, knowledge (capture, creation, access, reuse, sharing, application),etc.

Then there are lots of possible permutations, as long as you don’t have ‘management’ after ‘knowledge’. For example:

  • Managing intellectual capital
  • Facilitating knowledge processes
  • Supporting reuse (or access, sharing, application, creation) of knowledge
  • Improving collaboration
  • Facilitating knowledge capture
  • Intellectual property management
  • Knowledge discovery
  • Supporting content processes
  • Etc…

The purpose is to not get people hung up on the KM term since there is some baggage associated with the field. Some of these phrases start to have slightly different meanings and contexts so its important to focus on the goal and not the terms.

But amongst friends, I will say “KM”… We can have KM approaches, tools and processes that will help meet all the “motherhood and apple pie” goals of reduced costs, cycle times, overhead, etc and increased sales, profits, market share, etc. (But then again, what approach, tool or process does not profess to meet those goals?)

The goal of KM is to facilitate information flows rather than perform a specific function. I like to refer to the metaphor of an organization’s ‘information metabolism’: and the goal of improving the speed of decision-making and problem solving.

A range of tools and processes support a range of activities around knowledge creation through knowledge access, reuse and consumption which includes unstructured tools and processes for the creation side through more structured tools and processes for access and reuse.

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