Those of us working in KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy find ourselves being asked about our work.
We’re asked a lot, in fact, and we’re often surprised that people we know don’t quite “get it” when we say we work with information management, knowledge management, and what we call “strategic learning” (what we learn for the workplace – for most other people the information and knowledge they “learn” is “just what I need to know”).
Over the years most people have figured out how to deal with what they need to know (at least in their personal lives). And when it comes to what’s needed in the workplace, they don’t think much about how they work with the information and knowledge they are called upon to use (or how they could work with information and knowledge even better). Some people even express surprise that there is a discipline like ours (see “You Have to Teach That?”).
So I keep thinking about how we – as specialists in this discipline – can convey to others what it is we do.
A recent idea came to me from the education field, when I read about a concept that teachers apparently deal with all the time. I got to wondering if perhaps we knowledge professionals might give this some thought.
In educational theory it’s called something like the “expert blind spot.” And from what I understand, it has to do with the fact that once we – as experts – have mastered a body of knowledge about a subject, we have some trouble connecting with what people who haven’t mastered the subject don’t know about it. In our case, it becomes difficult to imagine what people who aren’t knowledge specialists don’t know.
Is that a problem for us? Sometimes it gets a little confusing, when we’re working with people who don’t share our background. So we get into the whole knowledge-about-knowledge conversation and soon realize that it’s more than coming up with a short elevator speech. Sure, we can share our elevator speech with one of the company’s senior managers we run into accidentally, or the colleague from another department who sits down with us in the company cafeteria.
But is there another way, another approach, to speaking about what we do?
Certainly we knowledge professionals and knowledge strategists know what we know about our company’s intellectual infrastructure. And we know it’s our job to ensure that knowledge development/knowledge sharing – the KD/KS process – functions smoothly. It’s our job. We’re expected to know that and to put what we know to work for the company.
So how do we handle what we tell others? How do we – as knowledge specialists – deal with our own expert blind spot?