The latest McKinsey Quarterly message to land in my in-box re-introduced me to Don Tapscott. By now those of us working in KM, knowledge services, and/or knowledge strategy have heard some of Tapscott’s insightful comments, and this latest contribution from McKinsey keeps the standard high.
Interviewed by McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland last September, this short video connects with the release of Tapscott’s new book, Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success, which he wrote with Anthony D. Williams. In the interview, Tapscott’s comments push the boundaries of the e-mail-vs.-something-else conversation and Tapscott doesn’t let us off easy. He’s anxious for us to “get beyond” e-mail and he believes – for all the right reasons – that it is going to be “new social platforms that include an industrial-strength social network” that will enable us to put e-mail behind us, probably sooner than later.
I was impressed. Even when Tapscott got to talking about how KM has failed because of our supposed belief that “knowledge is a finite asset … and you manage it by containerizing it,” I was interested in what he had to say. But I also immediately disagreed, because when he speaks about rethinking knowledge management, Tapscott is encouraging us to move away from the containerization to what he refers to as “content collaboration.”
While I like what he says about having a “new collaborative suite” for handling content, I think the idea of collaboration really begins with the people – the knowledge workers – and not with the content. And that takes me back – not surprising to anyone who knows me – to knowledge services. Some of us have been working with knowledge services for the last decade or so, and knowledge services continues to make sense when KM, as such, is still not easy to handle for some people.
Those of us working with knowledge services define the concept as a broadening of the KM idea, as the convergence of information management, KM, and strategic learning, all coming together to enable better contextual decision-making, accelerated innovation, and improved research results. And it’s the strategic learning that brings us into a serious frame of mind with respect to collaboration. Strategic learning – as I’m often caught saying – is any learning that helps us do our work better. It’s the whole excellence in knowledge development and knowledge sharing package (what we like to call “KD/KS”) that lays the foundation for collaboration wherever (and whenever) anyone in the organization needs to know of, work with, and build on any knowledge that has been developed and which can be used to better position the organization for success.
So I’m not quite ready to agree that KM has failed, but I am pretty taken with Tapscott’s argument and anxious to see how content collaboration, combined with person-to-person collaboration, can get us closer to excellence in KD/KS.
It’s a good interview (if you’re a McKinsey subscriber you can view it directly here, or you can sign up at the McKinsey Quarterly site), heartily recommended. It will get the KM/knowledge services juices going!