The most recent post from SMR asked readers to identify the characteristics of the knowledge thought leader, and the query opened a new line of discussion for those of us working with KM/knowledge services. Some responses came via several LinkedIn KM-focused groups (and selected responses were moved over to the comments block of the post).
The question seemed fairly straightforward (“how do you identify knowledge thought leaders?”), and the variety of responses gives us a good framework for thinking about the work we do and the people with whom we interact. First of all, it appears that there is – in some organizations – a fairly weak link between knowledge leadership and the practices of KM/knowledge services. Some colleagues seemed uncomfortable with the question, apparently because in their organizations the “process” and “technology” components of KM are more emphasized than the “people” side of the picture.
Good. That means we can now have some new thinking in the KM workplace, and if part of that new thinking pulls “people” into the larger KM construct, that’s what we want. It all comes together anyway as we incorporate knowledge services into KM, recognizing that knowledge services (the convergence of information management, KM, and strategic learning) is the practical side of KM, the tool we use to put KM to work in our organizations.
When we pull it all together, we are building an enterprise-wide knowledge culture. Taking our organizations in that direction does indeed bring us under the influence of the organization’s knowledge thought leaders, the people we’re trying to identify. And from that perspective, it becomes a little easier to think about our expectations with respect to the knowledge thought leaders we are seeking to identify.
While I could have offered some definitions of my own when I asked the question, I was essentially looking to be provocative, to ask first, and then attempt to find some commonalities in what people had to say. That’s pretty much what happened, and some themes I heard (including some of my own thoughts) characterize knowledge thought leaders as people who:
1) Recognize – and understand – the role and value of KM/knowledge services in the success of the larger organization
2) Connect KM/knowledge services to the organizational mission, vision, and values
3) Listen to employees and subordinates and take their advice – or at least consider what they have to say – with respect to enterprise-wide KM/knowledge services
4) Connect the role of psychology, human relations, and human interactions with knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS)
5) Perform – almost without thinking about it – as leaders
6) Have no use for complacency and – I would suggest – “lazy thinking” in the workplace
7) Committed to continuous improvement
These people also, it should be noted, have an almost inspirational role, and from that comes a “following,” one might say, of people who understand the role of enterprise-wide KD/KS, perhaps even an information community of practice of knowledge-focused individuals
Finally, though, like many people when investigating a subject, I like to see what’s been posted on Wikipedia. Sure enough, when we take the Wikipedia entry for thought leader and connect it with what happens in KM/knowledge services, we come up with a good description of the knowledge thought leader:
“A thought leader is a futurist or person who is recognized for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights. … Thought leader is business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas. … This term can also be used for an applied research center or a company (often a small business) that integrates professional ethics with highly-effective leadership development.“
It makes good sense, doesn’t it? Innovation, promoting and sharing ideas (what we call KD/KS in KM/knowledge services), professional ethics, highly effective leadership development. Not a bad way to think about knowledge thought leaders in the organization. Now all we have to do is find them. And put them to work implementing our KM/knowledge services strategies.
– Guy St. Clair
Md Santo responded via LinkedIn’s KM Edge Group:
DEFINING KNOWLEDGE THOUGHT LEADER FROM ENTERPRISE KNOWLEDGE INFRASTRUCTURE
Yes, your view on knowledge thought leader makes sense for me. I do agree you mentioned among others, … knowledge thought leaders in the organization are the people who connect knowledge development and, especially, knowledge sharing with the larger, enterprise-wide success ……
Regarding the issue, let me express it with other words from my side. The knowledge thought leaders in the organization are the people who act as play maker in committed the development of “Enterprise DNA” covering the development of “Enterprise Knowledge Architecture” and the “Enterprise Taxonomy – Metadata Management” ( visit the sub- folder of “KM2.0 Basic Visual Map” under the Folder of “Philosophical Sci of K” at Main Page of http://mobeeknowledge.ning.com and also our K-base on Human System Biology-based KM (HSBKM) model framework.”
What I mean with “our K-base on Human System Biology-based KM (HSBKM) model framework” is http://delicious.com/mobeeknowledge/humansystembiology as well as K-base on Enterprise DNA http://www.delicious.com/mobeeknowledge/enterprisedna )
GStC: Very pleased to have these comments, which very well inform our discussion. Spoke with graduate students in this area yesterday, and your characterization as “people who act as play maker” (although in different words) certainly matches what we discussed. Thanks for this good and cogent note.
Paul Cadario via Facebook “agrees with SMR’s Guy St. Clair that a thought leader has the curiosity and confidence to share interesting things.”
GStC: Thanks, Paul. Yep. It’s curiosity and confidence that pull it all together. As I was just noting in response to another post at the LinkedIn KM Edge group, was speaking with a group of graduate students on this very topic yesterday and this theme – and taking on the role of “play maker” or influencer – really came through from the students. Very rewarding to hear all this being talked about.
Guillermo Villanueva Valle via LinkedIn Knowledge Managers Group: “A Knowledge Leader will be someone who knows all the operational area, understands the needs of their users and customers and have strong technical knowledge, great vision and passion for research and documentation.
Should work closely with the operation, problems and processes from a technical standpoint.
Additionally it will be someone who is always suggesting improvements to the operation and publishing findings … I think that sums up how to detect your Knowledge Master or Knowledge Managers.”
GStC: “Good summary, indeed, Guillermo. I particularly like including the “great vision and passion for research and documentation.” In my experience – both personally and professionally – the real knowledge thought leaders are the people who anticipate (with pleasure) coming to work and confronting the challenges before them. Thanks for the good message.”
Posted by Dolly Bhasin on LinkedIn’s KM Edge Group:
Excellent article. Would also like to draw your attention to another aspect of knowledge thought leaders – Knowledge entrepreneurs. Any comments on same?
I have been heavily inspired by the thoughts of Art Murray of AKS.in his articles- “The Future of the Future: Goodbye, knowledge worker…Hello, knowledge entrepreneur” at KMWORLD and “Transforming Your Organization To Compete In the Global Knowledge Economy.”
Would welcome comments and thoughts on knowledge entrepreneurship to help groom myself to be one.
GStC: Thanks, Dolly for the good comment and the reference to Art Murray. I’ve long been an admirer of his work. Have met him a couple of times at professional conferences and such, and very impressed with his work. And, yes, I remember “The Future of the Future” article. It created quite a bit of discussion amongst my colleagues when it came out (was it really two years ago?), and there’s lots of good commentary and direction for us knowledge workers – sorry, knowledge entrepreneurs – and I very much value (and often share with others) Art’s thoughts and the challenges he puts forward.
And very happy to have the second reference, too. Good reading (and very thought provoking).
Well done, and thank you for leading us to this. Very helpful.
Will be interested to see if there are further comments in this discussion leading from his (and your) good thoughts.
Posted by Dolly Bhasin via LinkedIn’s KM Edge Group:
Thanks, Guy for the kind words. I have been fortunate to be mentored by Art Murray through the distance interaction through web/skype and twitter and aspire to lead a knowledge enterprise.
Posted by Dolly Bhasin at LinkedIn’s Knowledge Edge Group:
Another thought leader that I had an opportunity to work very closely to develop a product and methodology was Late Sh.Charan Lohara. The product Enterprise Strategist‘ (ES‘) was a breakthrough software application which makes integration/alignment across the entire enterprise and managing for results realistically possible. He designed ES‘ to ensure that CEOs and other C-level officers get the information they need to make well-informed decisions. ES‘ leads to making the Business Model and Information Technologies Model one and the same.
Go here to see the methodology for thought leader transformation for managing the enterprise as a system. I have used the methodology and approach for large projects and two of them have won national award for the projects in eGovernance space in India.
GStC: Thanks so much, Dolly. This is very impressive. Obviously Sh.Charan Lohara was a knowledge thought leader (“knowledge entrepreneur”) who took into consideration the perspective of the user. And when the user group includes executives in the C Suite, the organization is obviously on the way to success with KM/knowledge services.