Edwin Vargas at the LinkedIn Knowledge Management Group has responded to recent posts here, last week’s series about KM/knowledge services.
Edwin’s question is valuable and will, I expect, help think about KM/knowledge services a little differently. In his response, Edwin tells us that his company is talking about getting vendors that provide tools for KM.
He asks, “Is there such a thing? Is KM/knowledge services a discipline not connected to any application/tool or is this a tool, like Documentum, Open Text…. [and other] leaders in KM and CM?”
Here’s my take, which I break down into the three elements of knowledge work and knowledge sharing I see coming into play here (others I’m sure will take a different approach, and I look forward to what they have to say).
From my work and background, I think we’re looking at knowledge management (KM), knowledge services, and the organizational or corporate knowledge strategy. In my own mind, I have clearly established (I hope!) a picture that KM is a discipline, in the classical sense of the word, something like a field of study or a subject of interest. Or perhaps a philosophy, a way of thinking about knowledge and knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) in the workplace.
But I take it a little further, harking back to Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport and their definition of KM as “working with knowledge.”
To work with knowledge, we come up with a knowledge strategy, a methodology for enabling us to accomplish what we want to accomplish in working with knowledge. As I see it, strategy oftentimes connects with an established ambiance or environment and, as noted in the recent McKinsey articles alluded to in the first post of the series (in a distinction with which I agree), “ultimately, strategy is a way of thinking, not a procedural exercise or a set of frameworks.”
That definition of strategy connects with my thinking about KM as a discipline, a philosophy, or a subject of interest. With KM we don’t really accomplish the management of knowledge, the “working with knowledge.” But we do set up the intellectual framework.
But how do we get practical, how do we “put KM to work” (as we put it at our company)?
That’s where knowledge services – the convergence of information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning – comes in. We use knowledge services to come up with the tasks, the performance standards, the results, and – almost invariably – for the development of a knowledge culture throughout the company. They are all part of the practice of knowledge services, the framework that enables us to work with knowledge.
But if KM is the discipline and knowledge services is the practical side of KM (and that’s a phrase my partners and I use a lot), can they be the tools as well?
I don’t think so. Indeed, I would probably be a little uncomfortable thinking of KM/knowledge services as a “tool.” A “technique,” perhaps, if one’s concept of a technique is a little closer to the discipline/philosophy/”way of thinking” idea. But I’m not even sure about that.
I am pretty sure, though, that the tools we use, like the ones Edwin Vargas mentions, or the different databases and online business collaboration tools we create (or purchase from vendors) are used in support of (or to enable) KM/knowledge services.
So the tools are not, in my opinion, the same as KM or knowledge services or our corporate knowledge strategies. The tools are the “things” (for lack of a better word – I’m in a little bit of a hurry here!) we use for working with knowledge.
Is this making some sense? What do others think?
Thanks again, Edwin, for moving us into this good discussion.