I read Weinberger’s (2011) three chapters with great anticipation since perhaps the author would have some insights based on social connections and the internet into why concepts such as Knowledge Management (KM) and other management fads such as Total Quality Management and 360-degree feedback never seem to be sustainable. Davenport (2015) is correct that the internet is killing KM since there was not much life in KM at the working level anyway and rightly so. To me, KM is another example of an idea dreamed up by consultants and academics that could be pitched to corporations and other organizations as a ‘weakness’ that needed to be addressed. Who better to identify and install KM at your corporation? Why, none other than a group of consultants who were more than willing to work with your employees to build a KM database and conduct training to teach your employees how to access the database. I remember when the KM consultants made their rounds at my organization in the late 1990s to launch KM and it was pitched as the best and latest way to capture knowledge with the help of technology. I don’t think KM has ever been mentioned again at my workplace since perhaps 2004. KM failed the same way that other management fads failed at my workplace: no one seems to ask the frontline worker what they needed or wanted to perform their job better and meet their own personal career goals, assuming the worker had any career goals. Shocking to some but quite a few employees are there just for the paycheck. It is not my intention to play down the past work of Nancy Dixon (2009) and others in the KM field but I believe this was yet another management concept conceived in an echo chamber to use Weinberber’s (2011) analogy on group think.
I believe leaders should encourage social learning among their staff members backed up with the formal training that almost every organization provides. Knowledge Management in this way is more natural to employees especially as the internet becomes the de facto repository of knowledge rather than companies trying to develop and maintain their own in-house version of a knowledge database. My own organization still struggles with our own proprietary database and after 15 years, it is still not user friendly and many gaps in information exist and/or subject portals have not been updated in many years. Jarche (2010) is correct that social learning combined with other aspects of organizational learning holds better promise for employees to connect and find answers rather than relying on key knowledge holders (usually senior managers) for guidance and direction. I am glad to see that KM professionals are finally seeing the light in terms of connecting people with the right web based tools such as wikis or blogs and encouraging managers to support social media. As Dixon (2009) mentioned, the goal of KM professionals should be to assist senior leaders and managers in locating and building communities within their own organizations and branching out from there.
Davenport, T. (2015, June 24). Whatever happened to knowledge management? The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2015/06/24/whatever-happened-to-knowledge-management/
Dixon, N. (2009, July 30). Where knowledge management has been and here it is going – part three. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/07/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-three.html
Jarche, H. (2010, February 24). A framework for social learning in the enterprise. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://jarche.com/2010/02/a-framework-for-social-learning-in-the-enterprise/
Weinberber, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.