Fixing Your KM Focus

Focus My friend Jeff tried an interesting experiment in an effort to deal with a common challenge of advancing years: aging eyes. Instead of purchasing bifocal glasses or a pair of reading glasses that could easily be lost, he decided to put in one eye a contact lens designed for distance vision and, in the other eye, a contact lens designed for near-sighted work. I was startled by what seemed like a lopsided approach, but given that I was not all that many years behind him, I thought it might be prudent to learn more about his experiment.

It turns out that what Jeff was doing was not radical in the least. In fact, this approach has a name: Monovision.  Here’s one description of how and why it works:

We all have a dominant eye as well as a non-dominant eye. … When we look into the distance, we are actually using the vision from the dominant eye more than we are using the non-dominant eye. The non-dominant eye still functions, but the dominant eye sort of takes over. Our brain pays more attention to the visual information received from the dominant eye. So if the non-dominant eye is fitted with a near-powered lens to correct our near vision, our distance vision will not be disturbed that much. Monovision, then, involves wearing a contact lens on the non-dominant eye to correct near vision, and a contact lens on the dominant eye (if needed) to correct distance vision. Monovision works because the brain is tricked into thinking that the contact lens is actually a part of the natural eye.

While the ophthalmologists may not have considered this angle, I do believe there is a KM application of the Monovision approach: when we consider how to set up our knowledge management systems, we should take into account the personal knowledge management needs of individuals as well as the broader needs of that person’s network, communities of practice and organization. Accordingly, you need to use two lenses to accommodate two foci. The near-sighted lens is for work that is close to you. In other words, the work that matters most to the individual. The far-sighted lens is for work that has wider application or that is of interest to others. So for KM to work well,

  • each knowledge worker must keep both foci in mind; and
  • each knowledge system must personalize resources to meet the near-sighted and far-sighted needs of each person and community that relies on that system.

The beauty of keeping your eye on two separate prizes, as it were, is that you end up with a holistic approach to KM that meets individual needs (answering the perennial “what’s in it for me?” question), while also supporting the communities and networks that help your organization thrive. While this sounds simple, I’m not sure how widely it’s been adopted. How many times have you seen systems implemented that were rigid and highly standardized to maximize ease of top-down management while minimizing the ability of individuals to tailor the system to their needs? How many times have you seen skunkworks efforts emerge at a grassroots level solely to meet the needs of individuals who feel under-served by their manager’s view of safe and sanitized KM systems?

Returning to my friend Jeff, do you know how his experiment turned out? He’s now using line-free progressive lenses in a pair of glasses he wears all the time.  I suspect that part of the appeal of progressive lenses is that they let you forget the difference between your near-distance needs and your long-distance needs. The other bonus is that they give “a more youthful appearance.” While that may make sense for a person’s physical vision, I think I’d prefer the Monovision approach to KM — at least from a behind-the-scenes KM planning and support perspective. As far as the end-users are concerned, however, all they should ever experience is the seamlessness of progressive lenses.

The key is finding and fixing your KM focus foci.

[Photo Credit: Mark Hunter]

Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑