November 21, 2012

I’ve Got Knowledge

Many organisations start or focus their knowledge management activities on capturing and publishing ‘knowledge’.  While this is a good place to start it does have potential pitfalls that need to be factored in to ensure a successful outcome.

I’ve got knowledge, don’t know who needs it, but I will share it anyway.

Now this might seem like a good and positive thing to do but it has one very large potential flaw……… don’t know who can make use of that knowledge.  Now if you don’t know who can make use of the knowledge you also don’t know if it will really be of value to them or even if they do receive it there is no guarantee that they will use it.  Remember they don’t know you so why should they trust you.

Let me try to illustrate this with something that happened to me………..I’ve got knowledge but I don’t know who to share it with.

In my part of the world, the local schools close for a week in October and not surprisingly it’s referred to as the October Week.  Now in this part of the world October can be dull, wet and generally not a great month to be outdoors so a lot of people head to the sun.  Like very many others I found myself on a tourist flight at the beginning of October Week heading to the sun.  The airport had been very busy and indeed the flight appeared to be full.  I happened to be sitting next to an emergency exit so when the member of the cabin staff sat down for the take off I mentioned how busy the airport had been.  They then proceeded to tell me that 25 flights had left the day before and 27 were scheduled to head off to the sun that day.  I had knowledge.

I now had knowledge.  While I now had knowledge who should I share it with, options included

·         The education authority – they after all had decided to close the schools and create the mass travel

·         The teachers trade union – their members were spending their own money, perhaps the trade union could negotiate a mass rebate

·         The government – the need for winter sunshine was very evident, perhaps the need should be built into health services

·         The government – perhaps they should buy an island in the sun for it’s citizens (our own timeshare island) and give us a week on the island as reward for paying our income taxes

But as I started to think through the details (its amazing what you do to pass the time on a tourist flight) of how I could share this knowledge with them I came to an abrupt halt; even if I could find a means of getting that knowledge to them, why would they trust it or me.

Trust is the underlying foundation for any knowledge re-use.  So while I might be able to identify who might find my new knowledge useful and I might be able to find a mechanism to share that knowledge with them, the probability that they would use it would be low; they didn’t know me so why should they trust me?