This all started during a conversation I had with a colleague (Baron Murdock of GreenBox Ventures, LLC) and he mentioned the term Contextual Intelligence. Due to the fact that we were talking about knowledge management and big data I believe that I understood what he was talking about. However, I had never heard of the term. Not long after our meeting I began to do a little research on the concept of contextual intelligence.
What is Contextual Intelligence?
It is during my initial research (consisting of a series of internet search queries) where I began to understand that the term Contextual Intelligence is not new. As a matter of fact it’s a term that has been used in graduate business schools since the 80’s.
Contextual Intelligence is, according to Matthew Kutz “a leadership competency based on empirical research that integrates concepts of diagnosing context and exercising knowledge”; Tarun Khanna states that ”understanding the limits of our knowledge is at the heart of contextual intelligence” and Dr. Charles Brown states that “Contextual intelligence is the practical application of knowledge and information to real-world situations. This is an external, interactive process that involves both adapting to and modifying an environment to accomplish a desired goal; as well as recognizing when adaptation is not a viable option. This is the ability that is most closely associated with wisdom and practical knowledge”
While there are several positions on what contextual intelligence is. I align more to Dr. Brown’s assertion of Contextual Intelligence. When it comes to knowledge management (KM) and contextual intelligence, context matters! Understanding that contextual intelligence is link to our tacit knowledge, I immediately thought of what is the connection between KM and Contextual Intelligence. Knowledge management among other aspects is concerned with the ability to understand knowledge and adapt that knowledge across a variety of environments (cultures) different from the origin of that knowledge.
To enable the flow of knowledge to the right person in the right time and in the right context, it is essential to understand the context of that knowledge. Information Architecture (IA) is the backbone of delivering knowledge in the right context to users of Knowledge Management Systems (KMS). IA focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content (information and knowledge). IA enables users to find relevant content in the right context, understand how content fits together, connects questions to answers and people to experts. It is the incorporation of IA that contributes to giving knowledge its context.
Understanding the context of knowledge consists of:
- Understanding the intent of the knowledge
- Understanding the cultural and environmental influences on the knowledge
- Understanding the role (or who) the knowledge is intended to be used by
- Understanding the relevancy of the knowledge (The knowledge could only be valid for a specific period of time)
- Understanding the origin (lineage) of the knowledge
Without context data is meaningless, this includes structured and unstructured data. Big Data resources contain a proliferation of structured and unstructured data. Knowledge management techniques applied to big data resources to extract knowledge will need to understand the context of the data in order to deliver pertinent knowledge to its users. Knowledge Management has the ability to integrate and leverage information from multiple perspectives. Big Data is uniquely positioned to take advantage of KM processes and procedures. These processes and procedures enables KM to provide a rich structure to enable decisions to be made on a multitude and variety of data.
We know that context matters. Especially when it comes to what we know (our knowledge). Being able to adapt our knowledge with others is at the heart of successfully communicating, sharing what we know and to fuel innovation.
Obtaining contextual intelligence for your organization consists of leveraging or hiring people who are fluent in more than one culture, partnering with local companies, developing localized talent and enabling your employees to do more field work to immerse themselves in other cultures (tuning in to cultural and environmental differences).
A couple of great resources to read on Contextual Intelligence are “Contextual Intelligence” by Tarun Khanna from the September 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review and “Understanding Contextual Intelligence: a critical competency for today’s leaders” by Matthew R Kutz and Anita Bamford-Wade from the July 2013 Emergent Publications, Vol. 15 No. 3.