[Author Note: Barrie Levy and I are the authors of The Knowledge Services Handbook: A Guide for the Knowledge Strategist (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2020). In order to share our thoughts about the book with readers, the layout for this post is a little different, using a Q&A format.]
Levy: Why is it necessary to have a second book on knowledge services, Guy? Your 2016 Knowledge Services: A Strategic Framework for the 21st Century Organization was a complete work in itself. In fact, you said in the preface to that book that its focus was to present a practical, philosophical, and personal framework for managing knowledge services. What’s different about The Knowledge Services Handbook: A Guide for the Knowledge Strategist?
St. Clair: A good observation, Barrie, and the best response is to tell a little about the first book. It was written to do two things. First, to define knowledge services (that is, Guy’s definition – now our definition – of knowledge services): the convergence of information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning into a single enterprise-wide discipline. Second, we wanted to put forward how the knowledge strategist helps the organization meet its knowledge-sharing goals, which is to ensure the highest levels of knowledge sharing within the organization.
Levy: If that’s the knowledge strategist’s role, as you emphasized in the first book, then our book – just as the subtitle says – provides guidance for the knowledge strategist and is written to serve as a reference for that management employee. Does that happen? Is that a viable purpose for a “handbook”?
St. Clair: Certainly. We wrote it in order to enhance the theories, practical suggestions, and personal directions offered in the first book. In fact, we even describe our book as a companion volume to the 2016 book. And it’s for any knowledge strategist, working anywhere. Knowledge services is organizationally agnostic, and it’s the knowledge strategists who bring important management and leadership ideas about knowledge value to leaders in any organization, no matter what kind of organization it is. With this as our underlying theme, we developed our book as a handbook, written and targeted for anyone with responsibility and authority for knowledge sharing. And it doesn’t matter whether the knowledge strategist has the title or is simply someone with another title who is tasked with knowledge services responsibility. Our book helps the reader – any reader – understand knowledge strategy and the strategist’s role. That’s how I see it. What’s your perspective?
Levy: Well, for one thing, we use our expertise and the book’s format as a handbook to connect the two books together, so they can be used together. In fact, the internal design of The Knowledge Services Handbook matches that of Knowledge Services, with the idea that the two books might be together, sitting alongside one another. Although to be fair, the first book is more of a “deep-dive” book, I suppose. With it, the reader wants to settle down and read it, getting lots of background and perhaps even some history about how knowledge services came about. Of course, there’s plenty of practical content there, too. But in talking about the two books, I can’t help but wonder if some readers might think the first book competes with the second.
St. Clair: Not at all. In fact, the content and layout of our book are structured more as a “desktop” reference book, like any other “handbook.” Of course we’ve added new material and subject discussions that have come to light since the publication of the first book, but a big focus in The Knowledge Services Handbook is the collection of comprehensive answers to questions and problems that emerge in day-to-day professional practice. Relevant examples and solution strategies are presented in a format that is well organized, and at the same time, we’re keeping the connection between the two books in place by coordinating the structure of the book (chapters, sections, and titles, etc.) so they match those of Knowledge Services.
Levy: But you’re forgetting the enormous contributions of so many other people, Guy. Let’s let your blog’s readers know that it isn’t just us. The practical “side” of our handbook for knowledge services is that it brings in a wide range of experts. It’s not just our voices. We might be thought of as something like knowledge services “nexus” people, and how we developed the handbook is a good example. When we began to work on it, we went out and found people who are doing really fine work with knowledge services. We brought them in to write about their experiences and their knowledge-sharing values in terms of the subjects and topics we’re writing about. In fact, in our book, we’ve pulled in fifteen knowledge services leaders and matched them with particular topics in which they’re known for their expertise, subjects they’re notably qualified to write about.
St. Clair: And each of the fifteen writes their own short essay to demonstrate how they apply knowledge services and how each of them has their own approach to knowledge strategy. It’s really cool, and it means people are reading not just what Barrie and Guy have to say, but what highly recognized experts have to say. But that’s not the only practical part of the handbook, is it, Barrie?
Levy: No way! We thought and thought about how we could get our readers involved. We really wanted them to keep our handbook right on their desktop (or even on their online desktop if they choose, since De Gruyter has also published an online version of the book). Particularly in terms of having readers think about each topic in terms of how it would be addressed in their own workplace, we put together a couple of special, you might say, “drills” or “exercises” for each section, connecting to the topic of that section.
St. Clair: You’re referring to my two favorite parts of each section. For example, we have a section about building the knowledge culture, a section (which we call “the KM/knowledge services continuum”) that includes not only your and my thoughts on the topic. There’s more to think about, what we call in this case The KM/Knowledge Services Continuum: Checklist of Considerations. With the checklist, the reader can find a group of thought-provoking topics for consideration. Or simply to read and then, to match up with what’s happening in their specific workplace.
Levy: And there’s more. After each “Checklist of Considerations” there is a group of discussion questions that were prepared to bring knowledge strategists into conversation about the subjects of the section they’ve just read. Our purpose here is to enable the knowledge strategist to be able to talk about the topic of a particular section. And whether they do it with other employees working with them or go beyond the workplace to talk about these things in external professional groups, they have a framework for getting the conversation started.
St. Clair: So the handbook is just that, isn’t it? A practical guide, as we call it, for the knowledge strategist? As we wrap up, tell me what your favorite practical advice is, of all that we’ve written about in the book.
Levy: That’s the easiest question of all. At the end of the book, like lots of books, we have an epilogue. It’s called “Knowledge Services: The Critical Management Discipline for the Twenty-First Century” and it includes something that’s not been written about before (at least as far as we can tell). And it came from you, Guy. Whenever you teach, work with clients, speak at conferences, even in casual conversation, you talk about how we all have management principles and leadership principles to work with. But we don’t have knowledge services principles. Well, we do now. The epilogue ends with “17 Knowledge Services Principles Every Knowledge Strategist Should Know.” When knowledge strategists, would-be knowledge strategists, even people who plan their work around knowledge strategy read and work with these principles, they have the guidance we’ve tried to provide. With these principles, they are able to ensure that knowledge sharing in their workplace, in their organizations, is practiced as well as it can be practiced.