Making a Case for Knowledge Management #IKNS

Columbia University CrownThe panelists in this session are: Jeff Carr (Senior Productivity Technology Solutions Professional, Microsoft), Ed Hoffman (CKO at NASA), Tom Stewart (Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer, Booz and Company, and author of Intellectual Capital: The new wealth of organization*), and Bob Libbey (Head of Digital & Social Communications, Pfizer)

[These are my notes from Columbia University’s 2013 summer residency program for its Masters of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, 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.]


  • What’s the Key to Good Decision Making?  The most critical element to effective decision making within an organization is knowledge sharing. But this requires a culture that encourages knowledge sharing as a matter of policy AND gives people the necessary support to take the time to seek out knowledge and then share it. This kind of organizational culture helps me overcome the fear of asking and it gives my counterpart reasons to answer.
  • Knowledge Management as a Discipline. One of the great challenges is that the name “knowledge management” can be misleading. However, if you can get past the name, the practices it encompasses can be hugely helpful for an organization. KM is the single best antidote to the greatest threat to good corporate decision making: information hoarding. Helping people understand the value of knowledge sharing and collaboration is a huge part of the role of KM professionals. In addition, they need to help people in the organization handle the constant pressure of information overload.
  • Where should KM Live? Much depends on the organization.  In a balkanized organization, KM should live within the part of the organization that has the ability to take action. Ideally, KM should be a center of excellence with the power to provide KM goodness on an enterprise-wide basis. In addition, there should be KM competency within each business unit. It’s important that prudential functions (e.g., risk, HR, audit, knowledge) report up to a CXO, even though personnel may be embedded in business units. Without the vertical reporting lines, it can be hard to maintain enterprise-wide standards.
  • KM and IT. The relationship between knowledge management and IT is critical. They need to be close collaborators, but the panel agreed that KM function should not be buried inside the IT function. IT’s focus is primarily on the tools. KM’s focus in more on methodology. That said, if you have a generous view of each other’s areas of expertise and don’t get too hung up on turf warfare, it is possible to bring out the best in your collaborators in other key functions. One panelist pointed out that there is (or should be a difference) between thinking about the organization’s information (CIO) and thinking about the organization’s tools (CTO).

*Disclosure: This link is through my Amazon affiliate account and may generate income to me.

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