Knowledge Management – Know How

Sharing knowledge to improve the workforce.

Reducing the “Tax” on Taxonomies

Information is power, but the interpretation of information is more powerful.  Well, if you are going to attempt to interpret information to create knowledge, you better be able to find the right information!

Organizations want and need a way to classify (tag) content for the primary purpose of locating it throughout its life cycle.  They often implement “Controlled Taxonomies” which are fraught with limitations for users and require plenty of administration. Establishing and using a taxonomy for the purpose of indexing content is a social activity and organizational constipation occurs when you try to formalize a social activity!

Darin Stewart the author of Building Enterprise Taxonomies writes in his blog, “In my experience, using the “T” word in conversation invokes one of two responses. Either people immediately fall asleep or they run screaming from the room. There is very little middle ground.  “Taxonomy” invokes bad memories of AP biology courses and trying to remember if “species” comes before “genus” or vice versa.  Even the more general “controlled vocabulary” has certain “Orwellian” overtones that frightens off users and sponsors alike who suddenly feel constrained or censored because you are restricting how they express themselves or label their content … In the context of the enterprise, taxonomy no longer means a place for everything and everything in its place.”

When most organizations create non-hierarchical taxonomies for the purposes of indexing and searching for content, the taxonomy terms tend to be very broad.  The WSN Insight knowledge management application for Microsoft SharePoint incorporates social activities for tagging content to reduce the user tax of taxonomies.  WSN Insight uses X-onimies (conceptually these are taxonomies, folksonomies and personomies) to classify and search for content.  This approach provides any organization with the ability to use a managed vocabulary with broad terms to address the organization needs for content classification, while the folksonomy and personomy frees content and users from the contraints of the managed vocabulary.  This provides users with the ability to use informal social and personal tags for content, eliminating the “Tax” on taxonomies.

Once again in the words of an expert on taxonomies, Darin states, “Our taxonomies or any domain model (which is essentially what we are talking about) are going to be rough approximations of the real world at best. There are going to be errors and omissions. So its important to give our users some leeway in how they tag things because like it or not, they will anyway.” WSN observed this user behavior “in the wild” and recognized its importance and applicability in knowledge management systems.

Wall Street Network is a KMWorld 100 Companies that matter in Knowledge Management.  They develop Clearview enterprise content management (ECM) and WSN Insight knowledge management (KM) – content enable vertical applications (CEVAs) for Microsoft SharePoint.

I am very interest in your thoughts and ideas on this subject, good, bad or indifferent.

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Knowledge Management and the Organization

My goal for this blog is not add to the deluge of common issues about Knowledge Management (KM).  Although, I may fail at my goal, I hoped my readers would help shed light on topics to guide the direction of the conversations in this blog.  Well… sometimes you get what you pray for!

In my previous post, “Better Knowledge Management for the Knowledge Worker“, a reader of my post commented, about a “real-world” issue in the practice of KM in the enterprise.  He commented about how the enterprise environment affects the Knowledge Worker (KW).  He wrote, “I feel its the system which is to be blamed. Usually the most weakest of the employees is given the assignment of KM implementation – this itself shows what’s the priority that the organization gives to this task … How many of the top management gets involved in this effort – they limit their contribution to the max “a lip service here and there”. Buy-in has to come not only from the top management – but also from other stakeholders. Knowledge for any organization, I feel is the collective understanding/ learning’s that the organization has.

Please, please – before you SPAM me – hear me out!  I have to admit, I could identify with his views on this topic, because I have seen this very thing happening in many organizations.  Remember it is never, never and never always, but some of the organizations, some of the time.  I felt the need to research this issue to substantiate how and why this problem exists in the enterprise.

Ikujiro Nonaka articulates one of the reasons for this issue very well in his book “The Knowledge-Creating Company”.  It seems that despite our heightened awareness of “intellectual capital” in  Western Management, few managers truly grasp the concept of a knowledge producing company, and how to manage KM.  They simply misunderstand what knowledge is and how their organization can leverage it!  Western Managers have a very narrow view of what knowledge is and what their organization must do to exploit it.  It appears that they hold the belief that the only useful knowledge is quantifiable data.  It has been found that managers at most highly successful Japanese companies tap into the tacit knowledge of all employees and to turn it into explicit knowledge for the organization.  These companies and their managers realize that in a knowledge-creating company, inventing new knowledge is not a specialized activity restricted to the domain of the R&D department, marketing or strategic planning.  It is in fact “a way of being, in which everyone is a knowledge worker – that is to say, an entrepreneur.”

It seems that Western Management can learn a few things from successful Japanese companies to improve how they leverage knowledge.  Executives at these Japanese companies are managing their knowledge treasure to the benefit of the company, its employees, and its customers.

This is just one of the many other reasons knowledge management is an enigma for many executives and ultimately their organization, employees and customers are the losers.  I promise more research and writing about this topic and welcome your opinions.  You can also follow me to get more about this and other KM topics on my micro-blog and learn more about this topic in this short video.

Better Knowledge Management for the Knowledge Worker

How many of you spend lots of time wading through the wikis, blogs and content in your organization trying to find a relevant place to deliver your new big idea?  A more likely scenario is that you add to the Collaboration-SPAM by creating a new wiki, blog or heaven’s no – an e-mail!  An even bigger problem is, whom should you target with your new big idea?  Your typical Knowledge Management (KM) solutions is no different that this blog.  What if, I could target the members of this blog who can help me to collaborate and benefit from this post and notify them instantly that I need their input.  In a public blog this is not practical “yet”, but why not within the systems of my organization?

Many Knowledge Worker’s (KW) are unable to effectively collaborate and contribute to the strategic goals and mission of their organization.  Knowledge Management (KM) systems provide tools to find content and collaborate however many lack the tools a KW needs to know what to contribute to their organizations.  Communicating the goals that drive innovation to everyone is a daunting task for most organizations.  Even when the goals are made known to each employee, they often lack the innovation skills.

KM solutions must provide a “Knowledge Radar” (KR)  dashboard to help employees hone in on the information needed by the organization to accomplish its goals. WSN Insight is a KM solution for SharePoint that pushes the relevant collaboration requests (a.k.a conversations) and content for each employee to their customized KR dashboard.  The dashboard contains many conversation KPIs to help prioritize matters.  The solution also has the ability to find the members of the organization that can contribute to the conversation based on various attributes (skills, projects, experience, customers, etc.) of each employee.  This solves some of the biggest hurdles we face with many KM solutions.

Since it’s never all about technology, employees in turn need to hone their innovation skills (I-Skills).  I-Skills help employees to “unleash the mindset, skill-set and tool-set of an innovator”.  These I-Skills enable you to anticipate and rise to the challenge your organization faces in a hyper-competitive era.  Robert B. Tucker eloquently makes the case for I-Skills in his book “Innovation is Everybody’s Business“.