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Although I have worked professionally in Knowledge Management and related fields for many years, the discussions on this page are a statement of my personal opinions, and have no direct link with work for my current or my past employers.

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KM is nothing to do with I.T. systems. It is about the behaviour of individuals.

I.T. can provide tools to assist with this behaviour, but if people don't change.....

If people aren't sharing knowledge enough to begin with, how is the introduction of a 'Knowledge Sharing' application going to help? Now, not only do they have to have the original intent to share knowledge, but also they must master a new set of skills in order to do so. Also, such systems risk channelling information in certain ways, with certain restrictions, acting as a filter on knowledge. So there is a danger that the introduction of a Knowledge Management system could actually reduce the amount of knowledge sharing in an organisation.

One of the best (and cheapest) Knowledge Management tools is e-mail

There is a lot of tacit information which gets packaged up in an e-mail - almost without any extra effort by the sender: Who it came from, when, who to, the date, a generic title for the message, plus the information itself.
The value of this information is multiplied when it is used to accompany an attachment of some form. Frequently the accompanying mail can embed vital information about an attachment: its validity, details of how to apply the information, advice on pitfalls to be avoided, opinions on its usefulness.

But how often is an attachment removed from the accompanying e-mail and the e-mail discarded - together with the embedded knowledge contained within it? Far better to store the e-mail complete with attachment, thus keeping the knowledge safe, together with any additional information which might aid retrieval through an electronic search at some later date.

So, When writing an e-mail, always try to include any relevant advice or information, especially when using it to accompany an attached document. And ALWAYS make sure that the e-mail has an appropriate meaningful title. (short messages can entirely contained within the e-mail title, thus removing the need for the recipient to open the mail at all ) When receiving an e-mail, think whether the information contained might be useful in the future, then store in a filing structure that is as flat as possible, perhaps by date, or by name. (but see article on hierarchical structures)

------ This page first launched 21st August 2006 -----

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The symbol in the top corners of this page represents my perception of the failure of conventional IT systems to provide knowledge sharing within organisations.

Information systems are sold to senior management, and an inevitable consequence of this is that they serve only the twin purposes of directing instructional and directional information downwards in the organisation, and carry reporting and status information upwards.

Knowledge is essentially information which passes horizontally in an organisation, a mechanism which is very poorly served by most information systems.

By way of illustration, consider a new starter in an organisation wishing to complete a time-card for the first time.

No doubt clear instructions for carrying out this task are provided through an induction package, or on an intranet, but rarely would the task be completed without asking a colleage for assistance. And you can be sure that this assistance will include information entirely missing from the 'official' source of information. This is the essential difference betwen the vertical "information" and horizontal "knowledge".

Very few organisations possess the mechanisms, the insight or the will to capture this knowledge for re-use.

So what are the diagonal arrows in the diagram? - they represent training and mentoring - soft skills which are most organisations' compensatory mechanism for the shortcomings of thrir information systems..