The two chambers of the KM heart
The heart of KM keeps knowledge flowing, and that heart has two chambers.
|Image from wikipedia|
You can think of the organisation as a body, and knowledge flowing round the organisation like blood flows round a body. But what is at the heart of KM? Is it knowledge sharing? Is it communities of practice? Is it knowledge creation?
The answer is that if there is a heart, it is not a single thing, but two chambers working together. The two chambers are our old friends Connection and Collection; the Connect and Collect routes for knowledge transmission through Conversation and Content respectively.
Connection refers to connecting people so that they can share knowledge between them; through discussion and conversation.
- In the Connect route, Knowledge is transferred through conversation – either face to face or electronically mediated.
- It can be supported by processes such as Peer Assist, Knowledge handover, knowledge exchange, knowledge markets, knowledge cafes, action learning, after action review, mentoring, coaching, and communities of practice.
- It can be supported by technologies such as collaboration tools, people-finders, community forums, webex, telephone and skype.
Collection supports knowledge transfer through collecting documented knowledge, synthesising it, sharing it and making it findable.
- In the Collect route, Knowledge is transferred through documentation (“Knowledge capture”), through organisation and synthesis of that documentation, and through connecting the user with the documents, through search or through push.
- It can be supported by processes such as Retrospect, Lesson Learning, Interview, creation of Knowledge Assets, and Knowledge Synthesis.
- It can be supported by technologies such as portals, lessons management systems, search, semantic search, blogs and wikis.
You Need both routes!
However they are not opposites; they are two sides of the same heart. The two different approaches address different sorts of knowledge, both of which exist in your organisation.
- The Collect route is ideal for relatively simple non-contextual knowledge which needs to reach a large audience, for knowledge that needs shelf life, for knowledge where no immediate user is available, and for knowledge which needs compiling and processing (such as lessons).
- The Connect route is necessary for complex knowledge, advanced knowledge, deep skills, and highly contextual knowledge.
- Collection without connection results in bland knowledge bases which answer basic questions, but often lack nuance and context.
- Connection without collection preserves no corporate memory, and runs the risk of overloading the experts with basic questions, and of loss of knowledge as the experts retire.