Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Knowledge People Leave With

Today I am speaking to the Minnesota League of Cities. I am struck by the fact that the need for managing knowledge and sharing learning, is everywhere. It doesn't matter if it is a large global firm, a mom and pop shop or a governmental agency. We all must learn to share what we know, leverage and use it wisely, to increase our productivity, quality, effectiveness and to sustain success. We all need to make better future decisions based on an understanding of context, future implications, external trends and patterns, and past experience.

Yet we feel isolated somehow. Client groups often tell me they either feel like the only ones who struggle with the issue of knowledge transfer or the only ones who need it. That is not even logical. We need it in families to help our children know how to best navigate in the world, we need it in schools to help teachers teach and to understand how students most effectively learn, and we need it in organizations, to help us all be as good as the best and not continually repeat costly and energy draining mistakes.

Government needs to understand how to transfer knowledge. The complexities faced not only in the Federal sector but in state and local government are enormous. Small towns also must know how to get funds for road construction, school systems, water and other utilities. They must find a way to have police and fire protection and face natural disasters. They must know how to transfer knowledge with few people to transfer knowledge to. That is a huge challenge in and of itself.

All of this to say we are not alone in needing to learn how to cooperate, communicate and manage our knowledge. As you are learning how to do this for your organization, turn around and teach those in the infrastructure that supports you to do the same. Government and non-profit need the same lessons we are learning on the job. Be willing to share your knowledge.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The zen of hiking and managing knowledge

We all know that managing knowledge is easiest when we are passionate about the subject or if the knowledge we are managing is immediately useful. The motivation intensifies and we almost forget that what we are doing is KM. One example of this is the website and resource list for hiking trails around the world:

You'll find trails described for places far and wide, some with pictures, others with excellent descriptions. You'll also find blogs and sites of hiking enthusiasts that provide a tool to share experiential knowledge of the trails and hiking in general. Vendors also have a place to showcase hiking gear and accessories.

There is no doubt this site is driven by a passion for hiking. As we strive to manage knowledge in our own companies, we need people who have a passion for the work and for what is being learned. This also means we need people with a passion for the organization, or at very least for the mission of the organization.

If you do not have that, if there are no people with passion, managing knowledge is not the answer. Taking a deeper look at the organization itself may well be called for. It is most likely time for an organizational assessment-- Is your mission clear and well articulated? Is it one the employees can grab on to and go with? Does organizational trust exist?

You want to manage knowledge like these hikers do. I am not necessarily referring to how they have structured the data. I am referring to the enthusiasm of a group who are driven to share what they know so others may benefit from the lessons learned. Through the site, these folks help others not make the same mistakes others have, and to be more productive with their hiking time. That is what you want. You have to have the passion to begin to manage the knowledge coupled with the need, and then you can follow the lead of the hikers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Step back Craigs List, look out YouTube

Online person to person marketing continues to expand, change and transition. That is what managing knowledge is all about. People who have a need take hold of what is available and use it to meet that need. In this case, the need is for new and better ways to connect with the external world to sell or trade goods. Creativity and technology intersect to give us a new vehicle:
“ combines the hottest Internet trends in one, easy-to-use site: e-commerce, snarky writing, funny videos, everyone's desire to be a star and video sharing.”

Truly we are moving into new technologies and fast paced trends which will have long lasting effects. This is one of the latest and quite interesting. How will this effect the managing of knowledge within and between businesses and organizations? Only our own lack of creativity holds us back. Trends used to be fleeting, now they change how we work on a day to day basis. Moreover there is such a fast pace that we can not always identify which trend was the catalyst.

Check it out, see what you think. And then, see how it might apply to your organization. Don't blink. The next trend will be here tomorrow. And it will make a difference.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

6 billion others and what we have in common

Life does get hectic and time can get away from you. This happens with all of us. It's one of the many commonalities between us-- time. We tend to look at what keeps us apart, instead of what unites us and binds us together. A new project called 6 Billion Others helps us see on the broadest of scales, how closely we are linked. They have set quite a goal for themselves, amassing thousands, soon tens of thousands, of video interviews of people from all over the world.

We are much more alike than we are dissimilar. Take a look. Listen while standing in curiosity and you will hear people of all different walks of life, countries, colors, ages, talk about their own journeys. You will hear how they differ and come to know them better. And you will hear how much they are like each of us.

Hats off to this group. Take a look...gain some new knowledge and insight into our brothers and sisters. That is what our work as knowledge managers is all about.