As I am doing a bit of research for a client, I am struck by how much and how little has changed in the world of Knowledge Management. I started doing this work in 1994 and realize that I was lucky--I began developing and using the concepts of knowledge management because I had a business problem to solve! So, right from the get-go my work was about solving problems.
In contrast, KM was often thought of in those days as the next great consulting opportunity and therefore was sometimes a solution LOOKING for a problem. That is a very bad way to do business.
We quickly realized, while problem solving with KM, that one of the big benefits was building bridges across all types of boundaries. Organizations were growing as fast as the economy and in the mid-90's the economy was rocking and rolling. We connected people to people and people to data/information and thought life was grand.
The marching of time provides another view and increases our abilities and the complexities of work, life and the world.
Building bridges helps-- but in these times of less resources, little time, no money...people often don't have an understanding of how to use the connections and sometimes not even the permission to do so, based on time, level or goal orientation.
I do not mean to say every organization now has the ability to connect to what is needed across boundaries and that workers have easy accessibility to the knowledge they need for their jobs. No, those problems still exist.
What I am saying is that there is also an increasingly large challenge for workers to know what to do once they find the information or knowledge they need. Do they have the time to act on it, the right to make changes, the ability to bring it forward. Does management allow them to USE the information (learn from it, apply it, discuss it, share it) once they HAVE connected to it?
Do workers at all levels have time to learn?
To make sense of the data we so painstakingly created, identified and connected people to, we have to have the time to reflect, to ponder, to try, TO LEARN....and the critical thinking skills to know what criteria to use, what influences and thought processes, to make good decisions with the knowledge we can access.
Life is complex. Let me boil down what I see. We have the technology and processes to help people find the data, information, knowledge and expertise they need inside and outside the organization--IF the company takes the time, money and resources to implement them.
We also need the time to reflect on and learn so decisions made are well considered, forward thinking and sustainable. And, we need to have enough contextual information and experience to understand how to make sense of the information and knowledge provided to think logically through a decision, considering all of the factors, influences and understand the potential outcomes.
We need to connect, reflect, learn and think critically.
To make the endeavor worthwhile, we also need to share what we have learned. Can you imagine the power in that? It is not just about getting people to the information. They have to know what to do with it. The organization must give them the skills, the competencies and the time.