What Knowledge Management should do?

by eskokilpi

Databases and documents are usually thought of as stores or stocks of knowledge.  From the mainstream Knowledge Management perspective, knowledge is understood to be created by individuals and then shared. It becomes the asset of an organization when it is extracted or externalized, as it is called in the SECI-model of Nonaka and Takeuchi.

But the everyday experiences we have do not exist in a meaningful way in any documents. What has happened can seldom be understood from the Excel sheets explaining the results of our actions or the Word-documents explaining what we did or what we should have done. What really takes place is very rarely a repetition of documented practices although there would be an efficient flow of these documents between people.

The actions in real life always vary. As the people with whom we interact change, the context of the interaction changes. In other words, there is always variation in processes, routines and actions. Actions are thus never based on knowledge that is separate from, or outside of, those actions and contexts. Accordingly actions are not fully explainable through documentation. “We know more than we can tell”.  Knowledge, in this sense, cannot be seen as residing in databases and attempts to store it in documents of some kind will capture only partial aspects of it. Knowing cannot be separated from acting.

Knowledge is always a process of responsive contextual, live interaction. It cannot simply be located in an individual head to be extracted and then shared.

Knowledge is neither a stock nor a flow! What happens between people is interaction. Interaction is not a flow.

Knowledge is the act of interacting and new knowledge is created when ways of interaction, and therefore patterns of relationship change. The knowledge assets of an organization are the patterns of interaction between its members and knowledge is destroyed when relationships are missing or are destroyed, as is happening widely in the corporate world today. Key corporate assets are lost!

Organizational change, learning and knowledge creation are the same as changes in communication. Enabling new habits of communication and improving the quality of the conversation are the most important processes of knowledge management.

The world of people in interaction is (luckily) very different from the world of algorithms and technological intelligence.