What incentives work for Knowledge Management?

There are a number of ways to incentivise KM, but which ones work?

I blogged yesterday about an article which confirms that financial incentives for sharing knowledge can easily backfire, but which incentives actually work?
We can answer this question with data from the Knoco KM surveys in 2014, 2017 and 2020. One of the questions provided respondents with a list if possible incentives, and asked the participants to rank how powerful they have been in influencing behaviour. The graph below shows the answers (approx 700 people answered the question).
The chart shows these incentives in order of value from left to right, as a stacked bar chart, with the weighted value shown as a blue line (this line would be at 100% if all the participants that used this incentive said it was “very powerful” and at 0 they all claimed it was of no use). The top of the dark grey area represents the usage percentage for these incentives, as the light grey area above represents people who do not use this incentive. The top of the green area represents the percentage of people who said this incentive was “very powerful”.

The most powerful incentives are clear management directive for KM, KM embedded within normal job descriptions, a centrally organised recognition shceme, and peer recognition schemes. Finanacial incentives are judged the least useful.

The usage of these incentives increases with KM maturity, as shown below.

Each of the incentives shows a greater level of application as KM matures, with the exception of financial incentives, where usage decreases slightly in the most mature organisations.

We can also look at the how the perceived value of these incentives changes with maturity.

Several of the incentives are judged to increase in power as KM matures, especially the clear management directive, embedding KM in job descriptions, adding KM to exected competences, and the use of peer recognition schemes. All of these represent the embedding of KM within the expected work behaviours.

Monetary incentives, gamification and the central recognition scheme, on the other hand – where KM is incentivised separately – are judged to decrease in power as KM matures, even though the previous figure shows they increase in usage.

The message seems to be clear – incentivise KM as part of the job, rather than incentivise it separately.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Which are the most commonly-used elements of KM governance?

As part of our three global surveys of Knowledge Management professionals in 2014, 2017 and 2020, we asked the participants to select from a list the Knowledge Management governance elements that had in place in their organisation. 

The results are shown here.  

Most of the survey respondents reported at least one element of Knowledge Management governance, with the most common being the Knowledge Management Strategy  (reported by 62% of the people who responded to this question).

Having a defined KM approach was second highest, followed by KM reference materials, to allow this approach to be followed.

It is also interesting to see a Knowledge Management policy being applied in 35% of the cases.  KM policies are quite hard to find online – but there must be a few of them out there.

Please do not think that because a governance element is low in the list, that it is not important!

 We would suggest that all these elements are important, with the exception of having a separate KM incentive system (see here for more on KM incentives). It’s just that some are more commonly applied than others, often because people do not realise the value these elements bring.

The diagram below shows how the usage of these KM governance elements varies as the KM program matures from the early stages (blue), through “well in progress” (red) to fully embedded (green).

Firstly it is seems that the big difference – the biggest jump – is between the early stagers and those who are well in progress. This represents either the adoption of KM governance needed for progression, or the lack of progress of those who do not have those elements.

Those organisations where KM is embedded have an even greater application of all of the KM governance elements, the top 4 being KM strategy, Knowledge Management framework, KM training and KM reference materials. The biggest proportional difference in usage is the KM success stories, which tend to be collected as the KM initiative progresses.

At Knoco we would suggest that some of these governance elements should be developed within the first year of your KM journey, notably the strategy, the framework, the business case, the vision and the high level champion. Others such as the success stories and the network of champions in the business should be the next target, while the KM policy, training, metrics and reference are late-stage governance items.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Are communities of practice losing popularity as a KM mechanism?

Results from the Knoco 2020 global survey of Knowledge Management seem to show that the use of Communities of Practice is in decline.

Every three years since 2014, knoco has conducted a global survey of Knowledge Management. The latest survey is completed, and the final report written (go here to order a free copy).

One of the intriguing results from one of the graphs was that the usage of Communities of Practice seems to be in decline. So I did a bit more digging in the dataset, and came up with some more evidence.

Firstly, CoPs seem to have slipped down the list of priority approaches. 

The plot below is based on a question that asks respondents to prioritise various approaches within their KM strategy. This question has been asked in all three surveys, and the graph below shows the percentage of people who have chosen each of the options as their highest priority.

You can see that “connecting people through communities or networks” was the most popular “first choice” option in 2014 but has decreased significantly over the 6 years, and is now in 4th place.

Secondly, fewer organisations seem to be using CoPs as part of their KM Framework. 

Participants were asked whether they applied Best Practice, Lesson Learning, Communities of Practice, and (in the 2020 survey only)  Knowledge Retention. The percentages anwering Yes to this question for these four (largely tacit knowledge) approaches are shown below for the three surveys.

You can see that 62% used CoPs in 2014, 57% in 2017 and 55% in 2020. A steady decline.

Finally the organisations in 2020 which ARE using CoPs, are applying fewer of the components, and getting lower levels of satisfaction. 

This last one is a bit more subtle. Out of 13 potential component elements to a CoP framework, respondents in 2020 are using fewer (an average of 5.3 in 2020 compared to 5.4 in 2017 and 5.9 in 2020), and recording lower levels of satisfaction (3.04 out of 5 in 2020 compared to 3.16 and 3.2 in 2017 and 2014).  The prevalence of community sponsors, comunity business cases and community wikis is significantly less in the most recent survey.

These three pieces of data suggest that the use of Communities of Practice is in a slow decline.

But why?

I have to admit that I really do not know why this should be the case. Communities of Practice have been a mainstay of KM from the beginning; they are a powerful mechanism for peer to peer knowledge transfer, and they are the nearest thing to a KM silver bullet. So why are they not still top of the list as a KM priority?

Could it be that the survey datasets have changed – that the types of organisations answering the most recent survey are different? They are no smaller – if anything the average size is bigger in 2020 – but they are less multinational. One explanation might be that the 2020 respondent organisations contain a much higher proportion of government admin departments, and a smaller proportion of professional services firms. So maybe its not that CoPs are in decline, but that KM is being applied more in areas where CoPs are not a common mechanism. Maybe the government admin people need to discover the power of communities?

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

First preliminary results from the Knoco 2020 survey

The Knoco 2020 Survey of KM is about half way through its open period for accepting contributions. We have some early findings, and your own contribution is still very welcome.

The Knoco 2020 survey of knowledge management is the third in a triennial series of surveys of the global status of KM. It seeks to find out what is going on in the KM World, and identify any trends in KM over the 9-year period. One of the trends is shown at the bottom of this article.

The survey is still open for the next 2 weeks. If you would like to take part, please click on one of the links below.

We have an open link for everyone, a spanish-language version, and also specific links for certain countries, These links are below – choose one that fits!

Open survey, English language
Open survey, Spanish language
Survey for S Africa-based organisations
Survey for China-based organisations
Survey for Indonesia organisations
Survey for Russia-based organisations

The survey takes between 30 minutes to an hour to complete. It is very comprehensive, but creates a very comprehesive set of data and allows you to benchmark against a wide range of parameters. The survey has been visited by nearly 250 people, of which about 180 have left substantial data.

It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions from the data as it comes in, but here is one interesting snippet.  We asked all respondents to describe the trend in importance of KM in their organisation. The answers are shown below.

In each of the three years we have held the survey, the majority have said that the importance of KMis increasing, a substantial minority say it is neither decreasing nor increasing, and a small minority say the importance is decreasing.  Furthermore these results seem to be swinging more in the favour of increasing importance over the period from 2014 to 2019. 

The view that “KM is dead or dying” is not supported by these results. Instead it seems that KM is still very much “on the up”, or at the very least, “steady as she goes”.

The final survey report will contain many more such plots (the 2017 report contained 61 figures and 29 tables).

However for these figures and tables to be fully representative, we need your data! If you have not already participated, please find an hour in the next 2 weeks to take part.

Thank you in advance!

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Invitiation to take part in the Knoco survey of global knowledge management, 2020

You are invited to take part in the 2020 global KM survey – the latest in a triennial series of surveys of knowledge management practices and results.

As a thank-you we will give you a free copy of the results from the last survey in 2017, as well as a copy of the 2020 results when they are available.

The 2020 survey is a re-run of surveys we did in 2014 and 2017 which gave some really interesting results, many of which I have covered in my blog.

Just a few of the results are:

and many many more.

This year we are running the survey again, to see what has changed in the last 3 years and 6 years, and also to extend the survey into countries and industries that were under-represented last time. Anyone who takes part will be rewarded with a link to a free copy of the 2017 results, as well as being sent a set of 2020 results when the survey closes.

Note that survey reports can also be ordered here.

Would you like to take part?

If you can answer on behalf of an organisation that does KM, or has done KM, or plans to introduce KM, then please follow this link and take the survey. Bear in mind that the comprehensive nature of the survey means it may take up to an hour to complete, but this also means the results are equally comprehensive and rich, so your time is well worth investing.

Feel free to take the survey now, and/or forward this blog post to any of your colleagues or contacts in other companies.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Cultural barriers to KM – updated

Which are the most common cultural barriers to KM? How do these barriers change with KM maturity? Which parts of the world have the most cultural barriers?  

These are some of the questions we addressed in our recent surveys of Knowledge Management. The results from the 2014 survey are presented in a previous blog post, and this post includes results from the 2017 survey as well.

 First we provided the respondents with a list of the top ten elements of an Organisational Learning culture, and asked them to identify which of these elements was currently a barrier to the implementation of Knowledge Management. The graph above shows the results, with the numbers being the number of people who identified this element as a barrier to their KM program. A total of 473 people answered the question.

The greatest cultural barrier to KM is short-term thinking – hurrying on with work rather than taking the time to learn before, during and after.  The second most common barrier is a lack of openness – a lack of willingness for people to be open to knowledge sharing and to analysis of what they have learned.  These two barriers are significantly more common that the others, and the same two were in top and second place in the 2014 survey.

Respondents could choose multiple cultural barriers, and to an extent, the number of barriers chosen is a measure of how supportive or unsupportive the culture is.

The number of cultural barriers identified by the respondents is on average fewest (and the culture therefore most supportive) for those companies where Knowledge Management is fully embedded.

This graph may be interpreted in three ways; either KM is easy to embed where the culture is most supportive, that embedding KM requires culture change, or that embedded KM acts to change the culture.

This issue is further explored in the third graph, which shows the average number of cultural barriers identified from respondents from different regions (note that the numbers of respondents are small in some cases).

The most supportive cultures for Knowledge Management seem to be in Australasia and the Indian sub-continent, with the least supportive cultures in Africa and China. The USA and Western Europe sit somewhere in the middle.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

CKO skills, revisited

In 2015 I published a post showing that a significant proportion of CKOs know very little about Knowledge Management, at least according to their Linked-in profiles. This year I revisited these stats.

It seems things have improved a little, but there are still a lot of CKOs out there with few or no KM skills.
I looked at the profiles of 50 CKOs in Linked in – people with “Chief Knowledge Officer” in their current job title – and I counted how far down the list of skills you had to go before you found “Knowledge Management”.  The results are shown in the pie chart here. (Note however that this job title seems disproportionately popular at the moment in the military and legal fields, so these fields are over-represented in the sample).
Note how 34% of CKOs have KM as their top skill – as you might expect.
But note also how 14% of CKOs have KM way down their list of skills – lower than 10th place – and how 26% of the CKO profiles I reviewed DO NOT HAVE KM ON THE LIST OF SKILLS AT ALL!
I said in my 2015 post that there seems to be two types of CKOs out there, with a fairly even split between the two.
  • One type, who are reasonably well versed in Knowledge Management, and see this as the CKO’s domain. KM is top of their list of skills, or high in the list (and half of the the profiles I reviewed had KM in the top 3 skills).
  • Another type, for whom the CKO role is held by a person with few or no KM skills at all.

It’s the second type that puzzles me. Perhaps the job was titled “CKO” because it sounded good and important rather than because it had anything to do with the management of knowledge, or perhaps they appointed someone with information skills in a knowledge role, or perhaps the CKO plays purely an oversight and coordination role, and leaves the KM aspects to Knowledge Managers (managing the initiative rather than the knowledge)?

Whatever the reason, the results are surprising. 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills.

Would you see this in any other discipline? Imagine

  • a CFO with no financial skills
  • a Chief Lawyer with no legal skills
  • a Chief Engineer with no engineering skills
So why do 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills?

What is heartening though is that things seem to be getting better. Bearing in mind the caveats that

  • these are two different samples, and that 
  • 50 many not be a representative number, and that 
  • the profiles I can see on LinkedIn are related to my own personal network;
the plot below seems to show that the situation is improving. 

In the 2015 sample, only 24% had KM at the top of the skills list – now it is 34%.
In the 2015 sample, 32% had no KM skills on their skills list – now it is 26%.

Perhaps this is evidence that KM is becoming more respected and more established as a discipline, and that CKO is less likely to be used as a random job title.

The trend is heartening, but we still have a long way to go.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Do social media stifle knowledge sharing?

Do online social media drive a “spiral of silence” which can stifle proper debate?  It can, according to this techcrunch article, which points to this survey from Pew Research.

Shhh by Catherine on Flickr
I think everyone would agree that for knowledge to be shared effectively in organisations, people need to feel free to enter online debates and feel free to disagree with the opinions of others. Knowledge often comes through comparing and challenging conflicting “truths” in order that new truths and new knowledge can be born.
However the nature of online social media is such that we often create our own silos, and when addressing potentially contentious topics, are unwilling to discuss ideas which the rest of the group does not share (a structure called “polarised crowds” by this article, which I also explore in this blog post on groupthink in social media).  This has been referred to as “a spiral of silence” where people with dissenting views remain quiet.
The Pew Research survey explored the willingness to debate online by choosing a contentious topic (in this case the topic of government surveillance) and exploring how openly people would be willing to discuss this in various settings.

As shown below, social media are at the bottom of the list, and people are nearly 4 times less willing to share their thoughts openly online than they are round the dinner table.

The study has the following conclusions

Overall, the findings indicate that in the (government surveillance) case, social media did not provide new forums for those who might otherwise remain silent to express their opinions and debate issues. Further, if people thought their friends and followers in social media disagreed with them, they were less likely to say they would state their views on the story online and in other contexts, such as gatherings of friends, neighbors, or co-workers. This suggests a spiral of silence might spill over from online contexts to in-person contexts, though our data cannot definitively demonstrate this causation. .

Does this spiral of silence apply in workplace social media?

I have seen this happen in the work setting, as in the example below.

A new community of practice for project managers was launched in an organisation. Over a couple of months, activity started to pick up nicely in the community forum, with many people asking questions and receiving answers. However when we followed up with the originators of the questions, we found an interesting pattern had developed. The first answer to the question set the tone, and from that point the only people contributing to the thread were those who agreed with the first answer. Anyone who disagreed found a private offline way to contact the questioner, such as a phone call or a personal email.

We were able over time to resolve this behaviour through strong facilitation, and the community now works well in publicly exploring multiple views on all topics.

For those of us seeking to foster knowledge sharing within an organisation, the research study quoted above is very important. If we do not address this tendency towards a spiral of silence, our in-house social media will either create a new set of silos – silos divided by opinions rather than by geography or by organisational hierarchy (the “polarised crowds” mentioned above) – or people with contrary opinions will just drop out of the conversation.

The lessons to the Knowledge Manager are clear

 To start with, we cannot afford plural communities of practice covering the same topic. There needs to be one community covering each main work topic, not two or more polarised ones.

Then within each topic, disagreement needs to be sought and explored, in service of finding the truth. This is part of the role of the community facilitator – the role of allowing a diversity of opinion, and promoting and facilitating the dialogue that allows this diversity to be explored and resolved.

Finally, for the really contentious topics, you need a face to face discussion, such as a Knowledge Exchange.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How mature is KM in your industry sector? An interesting plot

The plot below is based on data presented in this blog post from last May. 

The data come from our Knowledge management surveys in 2014 and 2017, responded to by over 700 knowledge managers world wide. in this survey we asked (among many other things) about KM maturity, in two ways: the maturity level of the KM initiative, and the number of years the organisation has been doing KM. These two variables are cross-plotted below, and each data point is the average for each of the industry sectors used in the survey. More explanation of the way the data were created can be found below. If you want a copy of the complete survey report, please fill in the form on this page

Cross plot of the average maturity vs the average duration of  KM initiatives within  number of industry sectors
Image copyright Knoco Ltd

More detail on the data

The plot is based on answers to three questions: 
  1. A question “how long has your organisation been doing KM – please select the closest option” with the following options: 
    • 05 years
    • 1 year
    • 2 years
    • 4 years
    • 8 years
    • 16 years
    • 32 years
    • don’t know
  2. A question “how mature is your KM program”, with the following answers;
    • we do not intend to start KM
    • we are investigating KM but have not started (0 points)
    • we are in the early stages of introducing KM (1 point)
    • we are well in progress with KM (2 points)
    • KM is embedded in the way we work (3 points)
    • we tried KM and have given up
The weighted average was based on the points score above. A sector which was fully mature in KM would therefore score 3 on the vertical axis, while a sector which was fully immature would score zero. Please note that the survey was answered by people with some interest in, or connection with, KM. Therefore this maturity is the maturity of the KM initiatives within the sector, rather than a measure of the take-up of KM within the sector as a whole. 

We also asked the respondents to identify which industry sector their organisation worked in. The list of sectors can be derived from the data labels. Any sector with fewer than 10 respondents has been omitted.


The graph shows those sectors which are more mature in KM terms, and have been doing it the longest. There is a reasonable straight-line relationship, as you might expect. The longer a sector has been doing KM, the more mature and embedded it becomes.

There are no fully mature sectors, and no fully immature sectors.

There is no flattening off at the top of the graph. There are no sectors which have been doing KM long enough that they have reached full maturity.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What technologies are used for KM, and what value do they deliver?

Here are some more results from our 2014 and 2017 Global Survey of Knowledge management; a plot of KM Technology usage and value.

We asked the survey participants to rate a range of different types of technology by the value they have added to their KM program, giving them the options:

  • Large value
  • Moderate value
  • Slight value
  • No value
  • Too soon to tell
  • Do not use

 513 people answered this question.

The answers allow us to look not only at the usage of the technology, but also (through a weighted average of the first 4 reponese) the value that it delivers.

The chart above shows the survey results in order of value, as a stacked bar chart, with the weighted value shown as a line (this line would be at 100% if all the participants that used this technology claimed it had “high value” and at 0 they all claimed it had no value).

The top of the dark grey area represents the usage percentage for these technologies (the light grey area above represents people who do not use this technology). The top of the green area represents the percentage of people who said this technology had added “large value”.

The technology types are listed below in order of usage, and in order of value.

Technology type in order of usage 
(most common at the top)
Technology type in order of value delivered  when used (most valuable at the top)
1. Document collaboration
2. Best practice repository
3. People and expertise search
4. Portals (non-wiki)
5. eLearning
6. Enterprise content management
7. Enterprise search
8. Question and answer forums
9. Blogs
10. Lessons Management
11. Video publication
12. Wikis
14.Social media other than microblogs
16. Expert systems
17. Data mining
18. Innovation funnel
19. Semantic search
1. Enterprise search
2. Best practice repository
3. Document collaboration
4. Enterprise content management
5. Portals (non-wiki)
6. People and expertise search
8. Question and answer forums
9. Lessons Management
10.Expert systems
11. Brainstorming/ideation/crowdsourcing
12. Social media other than microblogs
13. Video publication
14. Wikis
15.Innovation funnel
16. Data mining
17. Semantic search
18. Microblogs
19. Blogs

What does this tell us?

We could take these results at face value, and say that the chart and the lists above represent the usage of the various technology types and (independently) the value of the various technology types.  The strong correlation between usage and value that we see in the chart and lists could represent a tendency for the more valuable technologies to get the greatest use. This is a perfectly valid interpretation.

An alternative argument would be to say that technologies deliver more value the more they are used. Technologies at the top of the list are mainstream technologies, used frequently, and delivering high value. Technologies at the bottom of the list are less mainstream, and deliver less value to the companies that use them, because those companies make less use of these technologies. This is also a plausible interpretation.

Even with this interpretation, we could still look for “Good performing” technologies which deliver more value than their popularity would imply, and “Poor performing technologies” which deliver less value than their popularity would imply.  Under this interpretation, the best performing technologies are Enterprise Search and Expert Systems (both of them 6 places higher in the Value list than the Usage list) and the worst performing technologies would be Blogs (10 places higher in the usage table than the value table).  This of course does not mean that Blogs have no value; it could men that the way they are being used is not adding the expected value (see my post about the “director’s blog“.

We saw very similar results for this question between the 2017 and 2014 surveys, with some minor changes. Those technologies which most increased in use between 2014 and 2017 were Microblogs and Video publication, and not surprisingly these have also seen the greatest increase in reported value delivery as well. The technology which decreased in use the most over the 3 year period is the innovation funnel technology (capturing and filtering improvement suggestions).

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.