It’s been – and continues to be – a fantastic journey, this quest for KM, knowledge services, and building and sustaining the corporate knowledge culture.
And in many respects, we’ve been pretty successful. From our perspective (that is, from the perspective of the information managers, knowledge managers, and strategic learning specialists who focus professionally on these subjects), we’re pretty much there now.
Thanks to 40+ years of wrestling with how we can apply knowledge most effectively, to ensure that our employing organizations achieve their defined organizational mission, and thanks to all the academicians, theoreticians, specialists in organizational development (which today we generally refer to as organizational effectiveness), a large population of professionals now discusses KM, knowledge services, and the knowledge culture with considerable ease and sometimes considerable passion.
And since Thomas A. Stewart identified intellectual capital as a corporate asset in the 1990s, positioning intellectual capital right up there with financial assets and all the other corporate assets, the concept of the “knowledge economy” seems to have come into its own.
The challenge now is to move the subject from the academic and the theoretical into what I’ve begun to think of as the real workplace. There is an enormous population out there doing just this kind of work, dealing with knowledge in the workplace on a daily basis, in millions of offices and who knows how many remote locations.
But is all this work being done well? Can’t it be done better? Why do we still hear stories about this deal being lost because somebody didn’t know something? Or that legal action being taken because somebody didn’t understand that there was a format, a regulation, a frame of reference that should have been identified? How can this work be done better?
Our struggle these days is how to get past what we know about knowledge and “working with knowledge” (as Larry Prusak defines KM) and move into that larger workplace, getting what we’ve learned to that population of workers who are not information professionals, knowledge services specialists, corporate archivists, specialist librarians, records and information management professionals.
How do we translate what is being done in the academy and by the many KM theorists (affiliated with the academia or not) into every office and every workplace? Is there some secret formula we’re missing? If we are the “knowledge thought leaders” in our organizations, as many of us think of ourselves, how do we take the expertise of the knowledge thought leader and move it beyond our own work into that of every employee of the organization?