Feb 172012

KM in Research InstituitonsIn a previous post I wrote about KM for Collaboration and Innovation, and in this post I pointed out that research areas are critical to new product creation and the speed to market for new products are essential to stay ahead of your competitors. KM plays a central role not only from the perspective of innovation by knowing what has been done and/or what is being done in other areas of research that can be utilized, but also from the collaboration and knowledge sharing among researchers contributing to the speed of new products to market.

At its core the nature of research is to nurture open access to extensive amounts of tacit knowledge (knowledge within the minds of people) and explicit knowledge (knowledge that is written down) by applying a model that reflects the natural of flow of knowledge. The model of Connect – Collect —Reuse and Learn depicts a knowledge flow model that supports KM within research institutions and R&D functions within organizations. For KM to work within a research environment (as with other environments) a culture and structure that supports, rewards and proves the value KM can bring will encourage the continued use and adoption of the KM practice.

In addition, the choice of IT tools (which is of secondary importance) should be brought in to the organization to automate the knowledge flow and its associated process. The KM tool(s) must support KM goals/strategies, provide a means to connect, collect, catalog, access, and reuse tacit and explicit knowledge. In addition the KM tool(s) must capture new learning to share across the organization, and provide search and retrieval mechanisms to bring pertinent knowledge to the user.

For those who are working in or interacting with research institutions and/or R&D departments I want to hear from you. I look forward to hearing your perspective on what KM is bringing to your world of research!
Oct 022011

knowledge management expertsRecently I had a conversation with one of my colleagues regarding his organization’s loss of critical expertise.

As people started to move in and out of the company, valuable knowledge gaps appeared. In a statement of exasperation he asked, “Where have my experts gone?”

To address these gaps, the organization began hiring short term (6 months or less) expertise to perform specific duties. When these resources moved on the organization was back to square one. This lead him to ask, “How can we address this long term?”,  “Where can we find experts to fill these positions long term?”, and… “How would you address this issue?”

Well I guess this is the million dollar question.

The first task I told him I would do is to prioritize the areas that have experienced knowledge loss and, based on that, perform a knowledge audit of the area that has been identified as the highest priority. In addition, further knowledge audits should be scheduled for the remaining areas as his organization became more comfortable with executing knowledge audits. I did inform him that the knowledge audit will tell him what specific knowledge gaps exist, who the current knowledge holders are, and what percentage of knowledge is tacit, explicit, or both.

Understanding if the knowledge gap is tacit, and the specifics of this tacit knowledge would help you determine the type of expertise you need to hire and for how long. In understanding if the knowledge is explicit, your key knowledge holders may have access to this knowledge somewhere in the organization (knowledge repository/portal, network folders, on the shelf, etc.), you may also have the ability to purchase this knowledge or perform research to document this knowledge. I also believe engaging the key knowledge holders when it comes to identifying the “right” personnel to bring in to fill key positions will start to address his concerns around where to find the experts he needs.

I know this is just a start to address his problem. I would like to know what others believe he should do, and why. In this current economy it’s only a matter of time before all of our organizations start to face this same problem!

Apr 032010

capturing tacit knowledgeOver the last week there have been messages going back and forth between the members of the Federal Knowledge Management Working Group  about the ability and validity of being able to capture tacit knowledge and transitioning it to explicit knowledge.

The conversation was initiated by Neil Olonoff, Lead Federal Knowledge Management Initiative, Federal KM Working Group. There were many views and opinions voiced on this subject. Some points stand out such as, it is difficult and considered unrealistic to think that you can fully transfer tacit knowledge in its entirety into explicit knowledge, instituting a mentor/protege (apprenticeship) program to transfer tacit knowledge is an optimal way to transition tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge, and are there methods (tools) that can really convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge effectively and efficiently.

It has been my experience that you can capture specific kinds of tacit knowledge (declarative, procedural, rules based) very effectively, and translate it into explicit knowledge and make it available across the enterprise. This knowledge becomes among other things “tips and techniques”, “standard operating procedures”, and “lessons learned”. There are also methods to codify tacit knowledge and that knowledge can be utilized in an expert (knowledge-based) system see UML for Developing Knowledge Management Systems.

Tacit knowledge has been translated into explicit knowledge throughout history, from the ancient Egyptian carvings through storytelling, through the semantic web. Phil Murray, Chief Architect from The Semantic Advantage has an interesting article in KM World: Putting Meaning to Work, that talks about the connectedness we share through semantic networks.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Sharing our knowledge both tacit and explicit is the cornerstone to the success of any knowledge management program!