The author studied Knowledge Management (KM) back in 2010-2012. It was fun but it is difficult to apply in real life. Most of the KM activities are driven by Academic. The question of how to make it work in real life is catching most people, including the graduates. For 8-10 years, the author has been looking for ways to apply KM in a sensible manner. The biggest challenge is how to bridge the gap between academic and real life business, and finally, this is what that is important:
How to apply Knowledge Management so that it will Make Sense in Real Life Business?
The challenge is, it is actually a very high level question, which requires a lot of experience, covering different areas of knowledge and experience - a multi-talent & exposure requirement. Here are some of the advice in applying KM:
Direction of Knowledge Management
First of all, we need to know why we should need knowledge management, and define our direction. To do that, we need to understand why:
- There are always a lot of changes no matter where you are - the economy, worldwide and regional changes, economical and political situations, all these will affect the market, the customers, market, industries to our business, or even the individuals.
- There can also be some evolving elements which do not seem important but could eventually cause impacts to the business, to the market, to the consumer behaviors, or the individuals. In the past 10 years, this has become more obvious. Technologies in automation and A.I. are examples that can disrupt the market.
- Current or even potential competitions, substitutions that can change the rules
- Technology or other means that can change the way business to be run, or that can cause the market and customer behavior to change
These are examples of what that can make things change which affects the development and sustainability of the business. The potential risks are about our knowledge and mindsets. We need to identify what are the missing knowledge that can bring us to the next level or next decade, which will be the strategy or direction in knowledge management.
An important tasks is to understand what is happening (hence changing) both as an insider and outsider and how things can impact the organization and the business. The front-line facing staff, partners and even competitors will have good source of information. However, these information are normally not straight forward. It requires people with good observations to discover and identify the real useful information. Good internal cross-team, cross-department communication is necessary.
After defining the strategy in knowledge management, we need to consider whether we need new talent, or we can train existing people. This is the development of Human Capital for an organization, and take times to become effective.
Identification of the right talent, either in-house, hire external, acquisition or partnership, will go to the strategy of HR and KM.
When training is needed, identification of the right talented candidates for development need to be considered. We should open our mind not to limit only to traditional sense of training. It is equally important to consider on-the-job training, participation in real life jobs and projects, working with partners, are also important. Traditional training is probably just the start, but it is practical hands-on experience that brings wisdom and expertise, which requires time. Human capital development takes time, and that's why identification of the right candidates is important.
Methodologies in knowledge acquisition will be the focus of KM professionals. How the organization can ultimately benefit from the knowledge acquisition should be the target. As an example, the completion certificate of training should not be the target. The real target is, how the staff will contribute in business for the organization and bring real values or results should always be the focus. A proper KM management should make sure how the individual's development should be made to achieve this as a result.
To achieve this, the training and the job should cope with the interests, needs and direction of the organization as well as the individuals. The format or methodologies of the training should be in a manner to make things effective in the sense mentioned above. In particular, hands-on practice and real-life involvement should always be considered.
Mentoring and coaching is still an effective way for tactic knowledge and experience transfer. We need the staff not only to learn the what and how, but also why. It is the why which make sense.
Establishment of business process is good because it establishes best practices and efficiency, but care should be taken too as it also means difficult to change over time. Ways to test, experiment, verify and bench-marking should be done from time to time to make sure it is still suitable and catch up with the changes and demands. Things change over time.
A good knowledge repository will facilitate knowledge management in an organization. The purpose of a knowledge repository is not only for storage. More importantly it is for organizing knowledge.
The most important purpose of a repository of knowledge is not to store them, but to organize them.
Storing knowledge and organizing knowledge are different. Organizing knowledge requires a lot more of thinking, and the ultimate purpose to get things organized is how to find them, and how to make further additional use of it. It is because of this purpose that knowledge repository can build higher level of knowledge, or wisdom.
This is the expertise of the author and of IntelliLife HK. Knowledge repository should not be built for the purpose of quantity, or just for coverage.
The purpose of organizing knowledge is to generate even more values.
This is what is meant by Make Sense of Knowledge Repository, otherwise it becomes a waste of time. But if it generates more values, we don't have to worry anymore its utilisation.
From the experience of the author, a properly designed knowledge repository also help to shape our mind maps and practice, and expand our capacity. It can also result in new discoveries. This is actually the purpose of developing BYOS, which enables the design thinking process.
I guess nobody will disagree knowledge exchange is important in knowledge management. It is a matter of interactions and activities between people. Some points I wish to address for collaborations:
- Focus in a common objective or outcomes, which are beneficial to the organization and individuals.
- It is not quantity that counts. It is quality.
- For quality outcome, it requires focus and open-mind
- It is a process of observations, inspirations and discoveries.
- Activities should not be limited only to meeting, discussions and gathering. Sometimes working together with different people will raise a lot of inspirations and insights too, and could be even more effective.
Happy knowledge management!