And Away we go… into the Cloud Environment with Knowledge Management

Reflect on Shirky’s concept of “publish -> then filter” and its relationship to knowledge management.  If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management?

One of the greatest quotes I have read by Shirky (2008) appeared in Chapter 4 when he asked, “Surely it is as bad to gorge on junk as to starve? (p. 83).  What he frequently refers to as “user-generated content” is the result of society’s tendency to “publish, then filter” (Shirky, 2008).  As we all heard in Shirky’s TED talk (2009) in Week 1, “we are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.”  This concept of publish, then filter has inundated social media and the overall ability of society to rely on the Internet as a source of information with communications media (communication intended to be between two people) (Shirky, 2008).  This has, as a result, drastically changed the nature of knowledge management.

As we are aware, knowledge management became an integral part of organizations in the early 90s as leaders began to determine the best way to “house” it and provide access to it for the employees.  Fast forward to where we are today, and knowledge management has drastically evolved.  Social media and web 2.0 tools have required leaders to relinquish control over KM and promote contribution and collaboration amongst employees.  Dixon (2012) stated that people are more honest in regards to their opinions and ideas through technology rather than face-to-face.  If this is the case, leaders must provide their employees with opportunities to make this happen.

Describe the evolution of knowledge management as impacted by the web.

Knowledge management has evolved from an individual-focused mindset in the early 90s to the more collaborative, group-effort of today.  There have, however, been significant milestones in this development along the way as a result of shifts in mindsets and the introduction of the World Wide Web.  As we have read this week, Nancy Dixon (2009) references three distinct knowledge management categories.  The first is leveraging explicit knowledge and it “is about capturing documented knowledge and creating a collection from it – connecting people to content.”  Prior to the Internet, organizations operated independently from each other, organizing and storing their knowledge so their own employees could access it, but no one else.  Dixon (2009) described the mental image of a warehouse housing the knowledge as if it was a commodity that needed to be managed rather than a constantly evolving entity within an organization.  With the introduction of the Internet, explicit knowledge was able to be stored on servers so that it could be shared from company to company and easily accessed by employees at all levels.  

According to Dixon (2009), the second category of leveraging experiential knowledge “gave rise to communities of practice and social networks”. The goal of this category was to connect people to people (Dixon, 2009).  The internet allowed for people to connect with each other via the World Wide Web to collaborate and share knowledge.  Though Web 2.0 tools had not yet evolved when experiential knowledge was first recognized within knowledge management, the formation of networks became present on the Web.  The Internet allowed for relationships to form between employees within the same company as well as others.  It also provided an opportunity for knowledge to be exchanged between people via the World Wide Web.

The third and final category is leveraging collective knowledge and it is “primarily about conversation both in its virtual and face-to-face forms” (Dixon, 2009). This category is all about the “conversation”— who is in it and what is it about (Dixon, 2009).  It is within this category that we see the evolution of Web 2.0 tools making a significant impact.  “Research indicates that people are more honest about their ideas and concerns when communicating over digital media, than they are in face-to-face situations” (Dixon, 2012). Dixon (2012) further stated that many organizations today use blogs to promote communication between employees regarding concerns and ideas.

Discuss ways that web-based tools can improve the management of information and knowledge.

Web-based tools allow organizations to effectively meet the rising demands for information and knowledge.  More importantly, they allow for accessibility of this information by the employees.  Training classes and the traditional distribution of information, though they still exist, have been replaced by webinars, blogs, wikis, etc.  Dr. Anupam Kumar Nath (2012) found that the use of Web 2.0 for KM in an organization “paves the way for the employees to earn the reputation of being an expert in the use of a tool and/or technology within the organizations and at the same time creates an opportunity for the employees to acquire knowledge and gain help from the expert and/or knowledgeable people within the organization.”

These tools can also assist with the overall management of the information and knowledge. People are able to search for specific topics, virtually collaborate in “real-time” with colleagues and publish their research and ideas to the Web for the world to see and respond to.  Organizations are no longer isolated, sharing their own knowledge within company ranks to their own employees.  Rather, web-based tools allow organizations manage their knowledge publicly, and as a result, learning from each other rather than by themselves. 

References

Dixon, N.  (2009, July 30).  Where Knowledge Management Has Been and Where It Is Going.  Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/07/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-three.html

Dixon, N.  (2012, August 8).  The Three Eras of Knowledge Management.  Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2012/08/the-three-eras-of-knowledge-management.html

Nath, A.  (2012).  Web 2.0 Technologies for Effective Knowledge Management in Organizations:  A Qualitative Analysis (Doctoral dissertation).  Retrieved from http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/Nath_uncg_0154D_10898.pdf

Shirky, C. (2009, June 16).  Clay Shirky:  How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0&feature=youtu.be

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7 thoughts on “And Away we go… into the Cloud Environment with Knowledge Management

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts this week Shauna. I enjoyed reading your post.

    Based on the content I am assuming that you had the same impressions from the reading that I did. While the entry from Shirky explained an interesting series of observations about current impact of social media on certain elements related to leadership, the reading from Dixon contained a synthesis of evolving perspectives on Knowledge Management.

    In my own lived experience in an educational setting for the past 35 years I was unfamiliar with the phrase Knowledge Management until I read this week’s selections. I found that I was able to relate to the descriptions of the phases of KM described by Dixon. I especially read with interest phase 3 of her blog. She clearly describes that we are in the middle of yet another transformation of KM and its practical uses for leaders. That section seemed to have many more questions than answers. I found it mildly comforting to know that someone with so much experience in KM found themselves asking questions around the same types of issues that surround my own personal work environment.

    I do find it perplexing that I have found little in our reading thus far regarding the distinction between the gathering of “knowledge” and, what I consider to be a more important task of leadership, the distillation and application of “wisdom” once we have gained all of the knowledge that is available on a particular subject matter. Any fool with a computer that has access to Google can gain knowledge in this sense. It is in having the wisdom to disseminate what is useful with in all of that knowledge that is most important.

    Do you think we have adequately reflected on the concept of distinguishing knowledge from wisdom? Do you think this is an important issue or am I overemphasizing it to a degree that you do not see as necessary?

    I welcome your thoughts and the thoughts of our classmates on this matter.

    • Joe, you raise an interesting distinction…traveling from information to knowledge to wisdom. In looking at the definition of wisdom, the word “knowledge” is used:

      – the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
      – the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
      – the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period.

      So I am wondering … given the evolution of KM to collective knowledge building…whether “wisdom” can now be collectively developed…or is wisdom the role of leaders?

  2. It’s interesting that you talk about webinars being a tool for distributing information. I do webinars all the time and didn’t even think about it! This is also a great example where filter is vital for accurate knowledge management and transfer.

    I did a webinar with a woman that speaks about clinical documentation improvement, which is a profession where people, typically nurses, work with physicians to improve their documentation in hospitals. Most of the time these nurses work with physicians in the inpatient hospital setting. I was the other speaker and I was asked to speak about coding for ICD-10-CM which is a new medical code set being implemented, and I was asked to speak about coding in the physician office setting. I knew these two elements weren’t congruent and wouldn’t make any sense together. Two different audiences, two different topics entirely – but, I’m not the boss. Attendees listening on the other end will need to filter out what information they need. If they are in a physician office, they will need to filter out the hospital information. If they are in a hospital, they’d need to filter out the physician office information. If they are unsure of the information they need, leaders in their organization can be helpful to them, providing guidance on what info they need.

    Even professionally provided information needs filtering at times, unfortunately.

  3. Nice post, Shauna. You commented that “…Organizations are no longer isolated, sharing their own knowledge within company ranks to their own employees. Rather, web-based tools allow organizations manage their knowledge publicly, and as a result, learning from each other rather than by themselves.”

    This will come up again next week as we explore our wired workforce.

  4. Technologyambitions,

    Web tools are the “staple foods” in any organization. It does not matter if a business or organization is operating 1000 global offices or a non-profit from a bedroom, they need web tools to run an organization. The web tools work well for internal and external knowledge management. For example, someone from an organization must use the web to fill out the IRS paperwork to operate within the legal framework of America. Individuals that have the knowledge and skills to use the web tools are valuable assets to their organizations. The organization that I work for recently lost one of the web-developers that designed our website. The unique code that he used to develop and support the website is not known by any of the other web-developers on the team. As a result, in the last couple of weeks we have lost valuable time while we search for someone with the skills needed to use the code. Everyday that we are unable to update our website with new and relevant information we are losing valuable time to interact with our audience.

    As leaders we need to promote technology for knowledge management. The cost to use technology tools is relatively low when compared to the opportunities gained both internally and externally. It seems that investing in technology and a technology savvy workforce is good business!

  5. mysticdoc says:

    Hi Shauna – thanks for your post, which I enjoyed reading.

    You mentioned that leadership went from a hierarchical approach to one more lateral, where decisions were made by collaboration rather than by an individual. This reminded me of a paper I wrote called “There is No Klingon or Vulcan in Christ” (any Trekkies out there?) which explored leadership on board the original Star Trek series and on the bridge of the Enterprise in the next series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. This same shift toward collaboration took place in this epic American mythology – and their technology, like hand-held precursors to an iPhone, were introduced to us in the 80s long before they were built. It makes me consider the galvanizing role of visionaries like series creator Gene Roddenberry.

    But the real shift in leadership consciousness between the first and second series was a shift in consciousness – from “us “ and “them,” to engaging other lifeforms as a journey of self-discovery.

    Today, through the Internet and social media, the world is gradually changing from us and them to an open forum where we can all meet in a startling new form of egalitarian and collaborative communications.

    Best,
    Caer

    • Mysticdoc, you noted that “…the world is gradually changing from us and them to an open forum where we can all meet in a startling new form of egalitarian and collaborative communications.”

      That is true in some arenas … but it also seems the world is imploding as I listen to the nightly news. I am an optimist … but we seem to be living in pessimistic times!

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