Fray Issue 1: Busted! Yesterday’s post, No Time for KM, discussed what happens when present oriented people are not motivated by the promise of future rewards to engage in knowledge management efforts. No sooner had I published it than Jeff Hester rightly pointed out the flaw in my approach:



Jeff is absolutely right.  Time orientation matters most if you are still pursuing “above-the-flow” KM rather than “in-the-flow” KM. As you may recall, Michael Idinopulos first articulated this difference:

Wikis can be used for many different activities, which fall into two broad categories:

  • In-the-Flow wikis enable people do their day-to-day work in the wiki itself. These wikis are typically replacing email, virtual team rooms, and project management systems.
  • Above-the-Flow wikis invite users to step out of the daily flow of work and reflect, codify, and share something about what they do. These wikis are typically replacing knowledge management systems (or creating knowledge management systems for the first time).

In-the-flow efforts are exactly the sort of intrinsic approach Jeff was advocating.  People get on with their jobs and the knowledge is shared without much extra effort on their parts. The challenge for the legal industry is that our knowledge management heritage lies in creating and maintaining stores of validated documents. Before putting them into law firm knowledge repositories, we take them out of the flow for review and approval. In reality, practice support lawyers all over the world will tell you about the stacks of draft KM documents that are sitting on the desks of senior people who are too busy with billable work to review them.

Are there any adventuresome lawyers who are insisting on working via social platforms? Have they achieved “in-the-flow” nirvana?  If they are out there, I’d love to hear their stories.

[Photo Credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid]

One thought on “Busted!

  1. Though I didn’t mean to “bust” you, I appreciate the post. I do believe that when KM is done right, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the best, most effective way to do it. The challenge is getting to that point. 
    To bake KM into our work processes demands a level of maturity for the organization, the systems and tools, the corporate culture and even the individual participants. Once you have the foundation in place, then you can look for those opportunities to weave knowledge sharing right into the process–“into the flow” as Carla O’Dell says. Most of the time when you look at those processes, you’ll find that there is actually sharing and collaboration going on, but it’s not formalized. That’s not necessarily bad, but if we systemize the approach we can speed up the benefits and spread them to everyone in the organization much sooner. Innovation becomes a natural outcome from such an environment. 

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