Event report: Knowledge organisation – past, present and future

Our latest NetIKX event on 26th November was all about information and knowledge management within organisations. We took a look at how IKM has evolved and where it’s likely to go next. Our speakers were Dr David Skryme, Analyst and Management Consultant at David Skryme Associates and Danny Budzak, Senior Information Manager at the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Dr David Skryme
In his presentation ‘The 7 Ages of IKM in Organizations’ David talked us through the development of information and knowledge management over the past few decades.

Dr David J. Skyrme

Dr David J. Skyrme

David sees capturing the most important information as being a vital part of knowledge management. Communities are essential for developing tacit knowledge, through people talking to other people and sharing their knowledge. Work organisations are really social places, about human relationships and people.

In the beginning knowledge was passed down verbally – the Icelandic sagas are a good example. Storytelling has come back into popularity as a tool for knowledge managers to bring knowledge management to life.

David compared the development of IKM to Shakespeare’s seven stages of mankind. He dates the formal emergence of knowledge management as a topic discussed in boardrooms by senior managers to 1995-1997, when Nonaka & Takeuchi’s seminal book ‘The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation’ was published. This highlighted many advantages of knowledge management for organisations, particularly from a research and development point of view.

  • 1997-1998 – IKM still adolescent, growing up, coming of age
  • 1998-2002 – Segmentation/consolidation
  • 2003-2005 – Re-evaluation and re-definition. Reaching middle age, maturity
  • 2005-2012 – social media emerges as ‘grass-roots’ IKM. Wikis are increasingly used as a good way of harvesting information.
  • 2013 – Big Data & Analytics. What do you do with it all? Are we overlooking the human element, getting carried away with IT?

“The true success of knowledge management is when it disappears” – that’s when it becomes part and parcel of working life.

The American Productivity & Quality Center’s website AQPC.org has lots of survey data on knowledge management through the years. Challenges between 1997 and 2013 have consistently been achieving knowledge capture and reuse, but there are new challenges now – social media, visualisation, ramification, co-creation with customers. Still, David feels we shouldn’t necessarily prefer the snazzy new vs the proven old; there are a lot of solid knowledge management techniques already out there.

Danny Budzak
Next Danny talked us through how he is developing data, information and knowledge management at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), in his role as Senior Information Manager.

Danny Budzak

Danny Budzak

The LLDC has a big job to do in its role to regenerate the Olympic Park and surrounding area. There are lots of policies at local and national level to comply with, and complex financial data that must be published in an annual report.

Danny feels that information professionals can benefit from linking good data quality to risk management. For example, LLDC health and safety files need to be well maintained to avoid fines and keep employees safe.

At a conference he attended, Danny heard an analogy that chief executives are like nursery school children – they like simple things and primary colours! Use bright graphics, try and capture your organisation’s knowledge pictorially. Big paper maps on the wall can be a good way of capturing and displaying information in an easy way to see, while mind maps can be a fast and effective way of taking notes at a conference.

Email encapsulates a lot of knowledge – but unfortunately accounts are set up individually. The metadata is hard for others to access again. To try and overcome this, LLDC has set up a collaborative environment for employees to communicate within. The organisation is now not going to fall over if key people leave.

To make sure document management is more efficient, Danny has introduced document control templates and version control to make sure documents are numbered properly – e.g. v0.1 for a first draft, v0.2 for a second draft. There have been issues with some people renaming the documents in their own way, but most people are using the new system.

In Danny’s opinion, information professionals are too timid. Nothing should be too complicated or complex for us – it should all be knowable. We should get very involved in our organisations. Go to meetings you’re not invited to, offer training sessions without being asked.

Once others trust you, they will share dark secrets and opinions, like ‘If I buy my own laptop, it won’t be subject to freedom of information‘.

Make data visible – say how many files you have in total and how many of these are duplicates. People understand concrete numbers and will appreciate how much it’s costing them.

Some really good ideas to take in here. Finally, think it was Danny that mentioned this delightful Dilbert strip, Knowledge worker!

Further reading: Our Storify collection of tweets from this event.

Blog post by Emily Heath. Many thanks to both our speakers.

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