An upcoming client engagement requires that I consult Yoda. Really. (I love my job!) Accordingly, I’ve spent some time recently researching the wisdom of Yoda and have discovered that his insights are beneficial to padawan learners in a variety of disciplines, including knowledge management.
“The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” This insight of Yoda’s can be read as a warning about many of our information management (or, more properly, information mismanagement) practices. The fear of loss of critical data or documents can lead to over-zealous security measures that hobble the reasonable flow of information inside and outside an organization. It also can lead to information hoarding by individuals or the desperate creation by KM personnel of ad hoc databases and document collections. To see if you are on the path to the Dark Side, ask the following questions:
- How many knowledge collections or databases exist in your organization?
- How many are actively maintained?
- Are these materials findable by most people in the organization?
- Of the materials contained in those collections or databases, what percentage are routinely used?
- Do the personnel in your firm participate in and support information management practices that enhance appropriate access to key information?
- Is key information available for general use in shared repositories or systems of record, or are they hidden in private folders or storage systems?
- Are your security measures designed to inflict the least possible harm on the flow of information inside and outside the organization?
- Do your security measures cause inefficiencies or other costs due to the unavailability of key information?
“You will find only what you bring in.” Yoda was right about this as well. If he were a 20th-century creature rather than a 900-year old Jedi Master, he might have phrased it as “garbage in, garbage out.” This precept of Yoda’s is particularly apt when considering your organization’s intranet:
- What percentage of the content is current?
- What percentage of the content is used on a regular basis?
- Do you have a retention policy that is enforced with respect to intranet content?
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” Providing a little more knowledge to light the way is one of the greatest services KM personnel can render. To that end, KM personnel should ask themselves the following questions regularly:
- Are we employing the best possible means known to us to facilitate the flow of critical information in the organization?
- Have we identified and addressed the barriers to knowledge sharing in the organization?
- What new things are we learning about the discipline of knowledge management that can help us better light the way for our colleagues?
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” Knowledge management as a formal discipline is not all that old. However, it is old enough to have produced new insights that cause us to question some of the principles that we once thought were eternal verities. If you haven’t been following the development in thought within the discipline, then you haven’t been doing your job. It isn’t enough simply to maintain the intranet and call that KM. Be sure that you and your colleagues know what’s new in KM theory and practice, and let that guide you as you constantly evaluate your own KM systems and practices. It is only by engaging with new (and sometimes challenging) ideas that you understand what it is you need to unlearn before you can truly learn.
[Photo Credit: Gina]