Critics says that the inability of knowledge management proponents to settle on a universally accepted definition of KM is a sign of failure. Others say that the lack of definition and resulting ambiguity present marvelous opportunities. If you are like me (i.e., firmly settled in the second camp), then it is doubly important not to let the discipline’s perceived lack of definition translate into a personal lack of definition. Knowledge managers who lack definition make administrators very nervous. And that is not career enhancing. So the real challenge for knowledge managers is to define themselves and their work, and then help the administrators understand and accept that definition.
If you’re interested in defining your role in new and interesting ways, you would do well to start by considering Seth Godin’s 16 Questions for Free Agents. Among these, perhaps the most pertinent for knowledge managers are:
- Who are you trying to please?
- Are you trying to make a living, make a difference, or leave a legacy?
- How will the world [or your organization] be different when you’ve succeeded?
- Is it more important to add new customers or to increase your interactions with existing ones?
- Would you rather have an open-ended project that’s never done, or one where you hit natural end points? (How high is high enough?)
- Are you prepared to actively sell your stuff, or are you expecting that buyers will walk in the door and ask for it?
- Which: to invent a category or to be just like Bob/Sue, but better?
- Choose: teach and lead and challenge your customers, or do what they ask…
- How long can you wait before it feels as though you’re succeeding?
- How close to failure, wipe out and humiliation are you willing to fly? (And while we’re on the topic, how open to criticism are you willing to be?)
- What does busy look like?
Once you have a sense of what you believe, consider your organization and its goals. Is there a good fit? If not, do you need to educate your colleagues about your style of KM or do you need to find a better fit?
No matter how happy you are in your job, you owe it to yourself to ask these questions periodically. The answers might give you the added boost we all need from time to time as we labor in the vineyards.
[Photo Credit: Jovike]