Stan Garfield: 16 KM Myths Debunked #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description: Join our breakfast tutorial led by longtime KM practitioner Stan Garfield, who discusses 16 views of KM that are widely held but not necessarily supported by practice. He debunks these myths and shares research to support the misconceptions.

Speaker: Stan Garfield, Community Evangelist, Global Knowledge Services, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited; Author, Implementing a Successful KM Programme; Founder, SIKM Leaders Community

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2015 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Download Stan Garfield’s Slides
  • Push.  Believers in Push say if only we publicize it, promote it, shove it into someone’s email inbox, they will participate in and use KM. The problem is that we all have learned to ignore this noise. It is far better to create Pull — demand — for the things you are offering. Make it appealing, make it easy to consume.
  • Someone else will do it.
    • This occurs when leaders initiate a KM project and then leave.  You also see this when leaders delegate participation in KM to someone else — asking someone else to fill in their profiles, write their blog posts, etc.
    • When KM professionals do not use their tools themselves.
    • When organizations benchmark their competitors in order to determine their own KM priorities and actions.
    • The misplaced belief that the KM systems will work perfectly without my contribution or my leadership. If you won’t supply the necessary content, how can you expect someone else to?
  • KM is Dead. Or it’s on life support. Or it’s irrelevant.
    • Even Tom Davenport wrote a recent article on this — proclaiming the death of the child he helped create.
    • Whether we call what we do KM, the need for what we do will never go away.
    • What is dead? Focusing on collections and document repositories, tracking intranet activity metrics.
    • The name, knowledge management, is often derided. Worrying about whether it’s a good name or not is a waste of time — it’s better to learn how to do the work better.
  • Incentives don’t work. Stan believes that well-designed incentives do work. While people will always be tempted to game the system, relatively few actually do.
    • The key thing is to signal the importance of the effort.
    • Incentives work well at IBM and Accenture.
  • Roll it out and drive adoption.
    • This approach focuses too much on a tool or function. “Rolling out” SharePoint doesn’t explain why or what it is for. Telling people to collaborate more is an equally open-ended and vague direction. People cannot act on this.
  • Social is frivolous.
    • People do not often use social tools to post nonsense (e.g., what I ate for breakfast).
    • If employees are being criticized for “wasting time” on social tools, you need to educate everyone regarding why these tools make sense and how they benefit the organization.
  • Don’t Control.
    • There are a variety of views on whether it is wise to control communities online.
    • In Stan’s experience, it is better to limit the number of communities. This makes it easier for the user to find their group. It also increases the chance of building critical mass.
    • This is not about top-down control, it’s about respecting your user and their time.
  • Eliminate Risk. This arises in security-conscious organizations. It is often expressed in the form of shutting down internal social tools or blocking access to external social tools.
    • It’s actually better to enable sharing in a common place where inappropriate sharing can be observed and corrected.
    • If the sharing is happening outside a common shared space, the organization will never know about inappropriate until it is too late.
    • Focus on educating people on appropriate sharing.
    • Hire well and then trust your colleagues more.
  • Be like Google and Amazon.
    • Google and Amazon functionality work best at scale. Most organizations do not have that scale.
    • Asking people to rate content is challenging. It is better to ask simpler questions.
      • Did you find this content helpful?
      • Are you likely to recommend this content?
      • Do you like this content?
  • We need our own. Often people ask for their own online community for comfort or convenience reasons. However, often they do not really need their own and would derive greater benefits from joining a larger group. Encourage them to join the larger group (perhaps as co-leaders) and bring their energy  into that larger group.
    • Beware of the narrow niche — where people are asking for a community/tool for a very narrow need. It is better to work in a larger space with a larger group.
    • If you do not achieve critical mass in a community, it is unlikely to be active.
    • According to Lee Romero’s research, an online community needs at least 200 members before it will be truly active.
  • I don’t have time. This implies that learning is not as important as more mundane tasks.
  • We should work ourselves out of a job. After all, knowledge management is everyone’s job so we should not need a separate KM department. What about finance? Is that everyone’s job? It is naive to believe that people will be able to lead and shepherd KM — this requires specialists.
    • Stan suggests a KM team that includes, at a minimum, someone to focus on people, someone to focus on process and someone to focus on technology.
  • Bigger is Better.
    • The larger the team, the greater the time required for administration and management.
    • More is not better. Google proved that simpler was better.
    • The exception to this rule is: the more active members of a community the better.
  • Make People Do It. It is better to work with volunteers rather than conscripts. If we make people do it,  the will comply — but only to the minimum extent possible.
  • Everything is a community. For Stan, a community is a volunteer group you choose to join because you  want to get something done. It is not an assignment based on a common trait — e.g., gender, ethnicity, etc.
  • Our IP will be stolen. Some companies say that specific content must be locked down or else another part of the company might use that content in the wrong way. Sometimes this is driven by risk concerns. Sometimes this is driven by a fear of internal competition.
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