What is the 4th enabler for Knowledge Management?
There was a time when most people believed that there were 3 enablers for Knowledge Management; People, Process and Technology. We are now coming to realise realise that there is a fourth enabler. But what is it?
It has been obvious for a while that people, process and technology are not enough – that there are many examples of KM where roles are in place, processes defined and technology acquired, but knowledge still does not flow.
At Knoco, we have been advocating four enablers for a while now (see “the 4 legs on the KM table“), and many presentations at KM world and elsewhere also show a fourth enabler – a fourth circle on the diagram.
In quite a few cases, the fourth circle is “Content”.
I think the addition of Content is a mistake, for the following reasons.
- Content is a form of knowledge, and knowledge is what is being managed. Knowledge cannot be an enabler for knowledge. Effective management of content requires roles, processes and accountabilities, but content cannot be managed using content. Roles, processes and technologies are enablers – they are input factors. Content is an output. Adding content to the list of enablers is like saying “the components for making babies are a man, a woman, a procreative process, and a baby”. A baby is in fact the outcome of the man, the woman and the procreative process, just as content is the output of roles, processes and technology.
- If content is added as the fourth circle, then the assumption is made from the outset that KM equates to content management. However we know that KM is about tacit as well as explicit, and about conversation as well as content. To add content as the fourth circle dooms you to focusing on the explicit content, and ignoring the conversations by which tacit knowledge is created and shared.