Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.
- Bruce Lee -
I’ve never been a purist in KM. I’m a nonconformist when comes to KM. So I’m always baffled when talking to purists in KM. They told me that I shouldn’t change After Action Review (AAR) format, or that I shouldn’t challenge the common view that KM initiative should capture all knowledge in the organisation (I think not all knowledge should be captured while the purists suggested otherwise).
Little wonder that I often clashed with the purists (who are often my colleagues or fellow KMers in the KM community) in implementing KM in the organisation. Not that I disagree with the grand vision of KM on capturing, distributing/transferring, and reusing knowledge throughout the organisation. I disagree with the purists on strategies and tactics of implementing KM in the organisation and on means to achieve KM mastery.
Adapting KM to the Organisational Culture
In implementing KM in the organisation, KMers should follow Bruce Lee’s (a famous mixed martial artist) advise: “Be like water”. Why? Because different organisation has different informational needs and different organisational resources. There is no one-size-fit-all KM model for organisations. The best way to implement KM in any organisation is to adapt the KM strategy/tactic to the available resources and to real pain points in the organisation.
Adapt is a big word. Purists understand ‘adapt’ in the context of KM maturity model (see APQC’s KM Maturity Model). They advocate rolling out KM in phases, starting from growing organisational awareness in KM. My view on ‘adapt’ is slightly different. The KM Maturity Model is a fine model to follow if the organisation is open to learning and trying “new things”. What if the organisational culture isn’t open? KM Maturity Model will flunk!
So ‘adapt’ has to transcend beyond staged implementation of KM. I view ‘adapt’ literally. It is about taking out components of KM that fit the organisational culture and discarding the rest. This could mean changing AAR from four generic question to pointed questions about the subject matter. Or this could mean doing scaled-down KM with bare minimum, low cost technology such as Google apps (without technology, there is no KM).
Learning Closely-Related Disciplines to Master KM
Another minor point of contention between the KM purists and I is the books that KMers should read to master the discipline of KM. Many purists insist that KMers should read, refer, and gain insight from traditional KM books such as the Amazon KM book list compiled by Carla O’Dell. Most of those books’ content is on KM concepts. The trouble is reading and internalising KM concepts don’t make you a better KMer.
Concept is just that, concept. You can’t turn a concept into a reality without learning other closely-related concepts, without learning strategy, and without learning leadership and communication. In other words, to gain mastery in KM, don’t be afraid to learn other closely-related disciplines such as entrepreneurship, strategy, and communication.
All great martial artists know that to improve their skills and their art, they need to cross-train on other fighting systems (Bruce Lee advocated this many times). Likewise in KM, learning other closely-related disciplines will not dilute your KM mastery. On the contrary, doing so would enable you to innovate in KM efforts because you would be able to strip KM to its bare essentials and expand your understanding on KM. So don’t fret about doing it!
Here are three recent business books to get you started: