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