Dave Snowden

Defining KM

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My earlier post on KM governance attracted some outstandingly thoughtful comments and I will reply to them all shortly. One of the other tasks on that report was to define KM. Now I have resisted this in the past, but it had to be done. So here is my attempt.

Davenport and Prusak define knowledge as “a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, process, practices, and norms.

While this definition has stood the test of time it is focused on, and would only be fully understood by, someone with experience of knowledge management. Given the overall levels of cyncism about knowledge management, together with issues of initiative fatigue and excessive communication, it is proposed that a simpler and more common place definition be adopted together with some clearly business orientated guiding principles. A first draft is set out below:

The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.

The following guiding principles will be applied

  • All projects will be clearly linked to operational and strategic goals
  • As far as possible the approach adopted will be to stimulate local activity rather than impose central solutions
  • Co-ordination and distribution of learning will focus on allowing adaptation of good practice to the local context
  • Management of the KM function will be based on a small centralized core, with a wider distributed network
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