Knowledge Management (KM) had a time and place in the history books regarding “effective management principles B.I. (Before Internet).” According to Nancy Dixon (2009), Knowledge Management, the goal of KM was “to make sense of collective knowledge in an organization.” With the adoption and implementation of social learning tools and the Internet, KM has been doomed because:
- It is too inward facing
- KM relies on the expertise of an exclusive group of people. It does not recognize the importance that connected experts can bring to solving problems and issues (Weinberger, 2011). Jarche (2010) pointed out that a collection of the “right” people can lead to success above those holding only internal knowledge.
- It cannot change fast enough
- We move at the speed of the Internet (or real time). Employees do not have the patience for waiting for lengthy corporate training sessions to take place. By the time these do happen, many workers have developed their own solutions or learned about it on YouTube. We are living in the Twitterverse. What do I mean by this? We have the incredible ability to connect and interact with others in real time (Drexler, 2014). Google can provide us with instant answers, but Twitter and other social networks can instantly create a two-way conversation with others experiencing the same thing. People are learning in crowd settings (Weinberger, 2011) not just in individual siloes.
- It no longer meets the needs of the workforce
- Diversity, diversity, diversity. The environment is diverse, workplace settings and cultures are diverse and workers are more than diverse than ever. The knowledge that is shared and used to teach others must also be diverse to add to its stickiness. Developing expertise in a connected world naturally connects pieces that are different from one another (Weinberger, 2011).
It is worth noting that Dixon herself has not posted on the topic since 2012.
The Leader’s Role: Model the Way
Kouzes & Posner (2007) developed five practices for exemplary leadership. The first being Model the Way. To me, this describes, in the most basic terms, the role of the leader-you must walk the walk not just talk the talk. In the unfiltered world, a leader should help followers navigate through the myriad of information and knowledge that is available literally at one’s fingertips. At times, the leader must act as the filter to help followers uphold a shared vision. The leader must invest into the right digital tools to help this filtering process. Through the analysis of these tools, it is clear that there is not a one-size-fits-all tool, so the leader’s ability to find and vet (or appoint a follower to handle this) the right tools for the job. Even when these tools are adopted, there is a continuous cycle of networked learning.
Even when the right tools are implemented to encourage connected knowledge, the leader’s role does not end there. Too much filtering on one extreme or too much diversity on another extreme can lead to more paralysis than production. The leader must find the balance to meet the demands of the environment, the culture and the workforce.