The importance of Conversation Management in KM
Why do we hear so much about Content Management in Knowledge Management, and so little about Conversation Management?
|Image from wikimedia commons
Attribution Dean Calma, IAEA
Yet increasingly the content gets the lions share of the attention.
- KM World describes Content Management as the Third Age of KM, with the Fourth Age being the even more content-focused Knowledge Graphs
- Our KM surveys show “Better Access to documents” overtaking “Connecting people in communities and networks” as the primary approach to KM
- The term Enterprise Content Management gets nearly 4 million hits on Google. There is almost nothing on Enterprise Conversation Management (just over 1000 hits).
- OK, that last one is a bit ingenuous, as ECM is a recognised term. However a search of “knowledge management” plus “content” gets 27 million hits, compared to 2.5 million for “knowledge management” plus “conversation”.
I think its possibly because content is far less messy to manage than conversation, and so much easier to automate. Also there are far more vendors working in the content space than in the conversation space, and you can do fancy things with content analysis. Conversation on the other hand is difficult to automate, and there are fewer vendors in this area. It often needs human facilitation or moderation to work well, or even to set up the conversations in the first place. Conversation management is harder and needs more human resource.
- It is generally accepted that the amount of tacit knowledge within an organisation outweighs the amount of explicit knowledge (figures of 80% tacit, 20% explicit are often quoted), and conversations are one of the most reliable ways of accessing tacit knowledge. If you manage content only, you only manage 20% of the knowledge.
- The classic study of Haas and Hansen showed that for a bid team to reuse content from other teams was helpful in one one out of the 4 scenarios they described and actually harmful in the other three, while a conversation with experienced colleagues was helpful in 3, and harmful in only 1 of the 4 scenarios.
- If you use a few common dictums or principles, you can conclude that transferring knowledge through conversation is 14 times more effective that transferring it in written form. (Having said that, conversation is probably at least 14 times less efficient than use of content, but KM is not all about efficiency).
- The remote working forced on us by COVID 19 has already shown that the impossibility of informal unplanned workplace conversations is most likely taking its toll on knowledge, with an impact on innovation capacity.
- Conversations within communities of practice, through which practices are discussed and shared, and problems solved – either online or face to face conversations such as Knowledge Exchange
- Conversations between experienced and less-experienced staff, as part of coaching, mentoring, and job handover
- Conversations within project teams to identify shared lessons, such as Retrospects and After Action Reviews
- Conversations between one project team and other teams, such as Peer Assist, Knowledge Handover and informal one-on-one conversations based on knowledge needs and knowledge gaps, to ensure Projects operate from a state of “full available knowledge”.
Please don’t neglect Enterprise Conversation Management – pay it as much attention as Enterprise Content Management as part of a balanced KM approach, especially now COVID requires us to plan our conversation far more than we used to.