I was reminded of this when reading Tweeting your way to closing the skills gap on your plant floor, which cites Benjamin Friedman, the co-author of Web 2.0: The Inflection Point for Knowledge Management. Friedman says that while traditional top-down knowledge management methods and systems may still make sense for certain processes and bodies of knowledge that need precise documentation and uniform execution, these KM methods and systems aren’t always nimble enough to deal with many of the day to day issues that arise in manufacturing (and even in law firms).
He argues that when you let employees speak directly with each other (without the mediation or interference of a central knowledge management function) you can achieve faster, cheaper and more effective knowledge sharing. In his words:
…while traditional knowledge management solutions attempted to capture knowledge by corporate edict and with rigid tools, Web 2.0 technologies foster `organic’ knowledge management by giving workers the means to locate, organize and syndicate knowledge themselves.
The key to this is introducing Enterprise 2.0 tools into the mix of KM methods and systems AND implementing those Enterprise 2.0 tools in a manner that respects their emergent nature. This means allowing employees outside the central KM function to use the tools as they see fit to facilitate the flow of information. Done correctly, this allows for spontaneous communication, in addition to later retrieval and re-use of information at point of need.
This marriage of formal, old-school KM approaches with informal Enterprise 2.0 tools and methods provides a glimpse of a more effective means of improving the flow of information and supporting better decision making. Assuming we can achieve an appropriate balance between the formal and informal approaches, we may in fact be able to attain some of the goals knowledge management has been seeking to meet. After years of hearing that KM is dead, the prospect of success is both exciting and a little overwhelming. Consequently, perhaps we can be excused for feeling “a little verklempt.”
[Photo Credit: PaDumBumPsh]