I’ve become more and more convinced over recent weeks that knowledge management isn’t about managing knowledge at all. The Oxford dictionary defines management as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”. Knowledge isn’t something we deal with; it’s something we aim to use and learn from. Nor can we control it. After all, tacit knowledge often only becomes known through serendipitous encounters and casual conversations. We can do our best to control explicit knowledge through governance over how we store, write and reference formalised documentation such as knowledge base and policy and technical documentation. But control implies restriction and we want to avoid that at all costs. If we talk about the implied meanings of words and phrases, knowledge management suggests that our goal is to follow a precise order of steps to capture and store knowledge in a series of neat boxes.
I admit, I do aspire to an almost OCD level of organisation, but that ain’t ever gonna happen, Friend, because I have an 8 month old pile of unfiled paperwork next to me on the desk, right now. I do like categorisation, yes I do, but I like the frayed edges of serendipity as well. I like to pull at a thread over here to see what unravels, and then a thread over there… Often they’re truly divergent, but sometimes they come back together into a different, more exciting form.
Calling those learning experiences knowledge management just sucks all the romance and the life out of it. No wonder there aren’t more people on my bandwagon.
Knowledge enablement isn’t easy to say, and it’s not sexy marketing, but it’s exactly what the goal is—enabling quicker decision making and problem solving; enabling those serendipitous encounters by connecting people with each other; and enabling growth and innovation through lessons learned.