Content Catalysts

Knowledge managers  sometimes divide the world into two camps:  content creators (the folks on the front lines of an organization, as well as a small handful of knowledge managers with subject matter expertise) and content managers (the bulk of the knowledge managers and librarians). In this scheme, most knowledge managers are working well behind the front lines and feel best suited to the task of organizing content rather than creating it. And, the content they seek to organize is explicit knowledge.  In reading Nick Milton’s post, KM and content management – the turf war,  I was struck by the fact that the disputed turf at the heart of this war (i.e., explicit knowledge) is relatively small.  If you look at his Venn diagram, you’ll see he identifies three types of turf:  non-knowledge information, explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.  The first usually is the domain of librarians, and the last the domain of knowledge managers.  Both areas provide ample challenges and rewards.  Yet the turf battles continue with respect to managing explicit knowledge.   When you consider whether many (or any) of us should be fighting over KM 1.0 efforts to create and organize document collections, the turf battle seems even more pointless.

Therefore, in an effort to shift the conversation, I’d propose to expand the roles available for information professionals.   What if we were to add a new category:  Content Catalysts?  Rick Ladd pointed to this function in his comment on my previous post, Librarians vs Knowledge Managers:

It seems to me we KM professionals have been saying for years that an organization’s most useful knowledge lies between the ears of our people; up to 80% (obviously an approximation) of the total available. What I’m seeing is the use of social media to discover, connect, build relationships . . . in other words, greasing the skids of close to real-time knowledge transfer . . . is transforming how we deal with information and knowledge.

I’m of the opinion most value – at this time – lies in developing those “social” capabilities in an organization. Not to say managing the explicit knowledge assets isn’t important (precedent and all that comes with it isn’t going to go away, whether it’s judicial or the laws of physics); merely that connecting people to people and facilitating their ability to make sense of their collective information/knowledge, etc. is likely to have a bigger payoff than organizing our explicit assets.

This seems like a more productive route for knowledge management.  As information explodes around us, we’re finding that we’re able to corral less and less of it.  Our best hope is to have search engines that find what is necessary in the moment of need while we spend our time as Content Catalysts ensuring that information flows rapidly and is shared easily within our organizations.  (This is the promise of Enterprise 2.0.) It seems to me that knowledge managers should be able to add a great deal of value to their organizations as Content Catalysts, without the distraction of engaging in outdated battles over questionable turf.  What do you think?

[Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk]