Tomorrow’s KM Leaders: Education for KMers

Does formal graduate education in KM or alternative and varied experience provide the best preparation and pathway to KM employment?


  • Daniel Ranta, President, DR Consulting
  • Dennis Pearce, Collaboration Strategist, Start Early
  • Ed Hoffman, CEO, Knowledge strategies, LLC
  • Kendra Albright, Goodyear Endowed Professor in KM, School of Information, Kent State University
  • Kim Glover, Director, Knowledge Management & Social Learning, TechnipFMC
  • Stan Garfield, Knowledge Management Author, Speaker, and Community Leader (Moderator)

Session Description: The demand for KM professionals continues to increase; according to many popular job sites, KM-related jobs are likely to increase substantially in the next 2 years. The present demand for various levels of experienced KMers has created debate about whether formal graduate education, i.e., a master’s degree, or alternative and varied experiences provide the best preparation and pathway to KM employment. Our panel discusses professional competencies needed and master’s degrees from various schools of information as well as other pathways to KM leadership roles.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2021 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session so 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 undergraduate programs best prepare you for a knowledge management career?
    • There is no single preferred path.
    • The panelists have a wide range of backgrounds: business, engineering, journalism, computer science, psychology, organizational development, leadership development, interdisciplinary studies, etc.
  • Why should someone get a graduate degree in knowledge management?
    • their organizations want them to have additional depth in the subject, as well as a credential
    • they are personally curious about how and why things work the way they do in organizations
    • they have work experience that has opened their eyes to reality in the workplace, to issues that they want more tools to address
  • What are the KM capabilities that organizations are looking for in a person who gets a formal KM education?
    • the ability to help people to learn, to share knowledge
    • great communication skills (oral and written) and the ability to sell an idea
    • mastery of the human aspects of being successful at implementing change
  • Balancing theory and practice: Dan Ranta is teaching a graduate course on developing a KM program in an organization. He and his students appreciate that the course presents a real “view from the trenches.” It is more practical and actionable than theoretical.
    • Kim Glover: “‘balancing the relationship between theory and practice’ is a critical component for setting up KM students for success in the business world.”
  • Alternative Paths: An alternative path to KM leadership is to consciously recognize the KM skills and methods you are using in your work — even if your title does not include KM. 
    • You may well be “doing KM without knowing it” as part of your current responsibilities
    • Many of the panelists fell into KM by accident
  • How have the requirements and capabilities of the KM field changed over the last 25 years?
    • Dennis Pearce thinks that knowledge has “turned from a solid to a liquid”:
      • 25 years ago, KM was more focused on formal document capture and collection. The skill required then was the ability to persuade people to actually document their knowledge and then share that document.
      • Over time, we have come to understand that knowledge is more fluid and, therefore, requires more informal ways of sharing knowledge. As a result, people are writing more than ever, but in a less structured way. So the skill necessary now is the ability to find the useful, actionable knowledge buried in the constant stream of messy, informal written conversation.
  • Is there an advantage in pursuing a Ph.D.?
    • At Kent State, they offer a Ph.D. in Communications with a specialization in knowledge management. It gives the KM practitioner a broader knowledge basis and training to do further research.
    • It helps with your personal brand and credentialing.
    • Do it for the love of learning.
    • If you are a generalist, a KM degree gives you a way to get expertise that is widely transferable across a variety of domains.
  • How to weigh a KM certification vs a KM degree?
    • Dan Ranta believes that both give you a credential that separates you from the uncredentialed KM professional.
  • How to persuade your employer to pay for your graduate degree?
    • much depends on the culture of your organization, independent of KM. 
    • does your company have a program for advanced degrees?
    • if you see problems in the organization that could be helped with KM, you could pitch the degree as a way to gain the expertise necessary to solve the problems.
  • Is there a change in KM capabilities that we should focus on in our KM education? 
    • Kim Glover sees the strong need to go back to basics: focusing on people, behavior and culture. We have to strike the right balance between the technological capabilities and “reigniting the human capabilities for learning and sharing.” [Amen!]
  • Additional Resources:

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