For some time, I’ve been frustrated by the seeming futility of trying to “manage” knowledge. In pursuit of well-managed knowledge many of us have created elaborate systems and databases that require some or all of the following supporting factors: cooperative users, sophisticated search engines, smart profiling tools, and incredibly competent KM professionals who actually understand the substance of the content they are trying to manage. There are few organizations that are fortunate enough to have all these factors in place.
So if you don’t work in one of these fortunate organizations, what’s the better approach? Knowledge Sharing. This means that we stop trying to gather, classify, distribute or otherwise herd knowledge. Instead we create more opportunities for content creators and content consumers to share knowledge. The current law firm knowledge management fad is to provide this by using web 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs. (I call this a fad since there has been a lot of talk, but when I last checked very few large US firms could actually claim widespread use of these tools by their lawyers.) Despite the apparent slowness of law firms to adopt these new tools, they do show a great deal of promise for knowledge sharing purposes.
It’s worth noting that the rather skimpy wikipedia entry on knowledge sharing rightly points out that technology is not the main issue when it comes to knowledge sharing. Equally important are organizational culture, trust and incentives.