David Pollard over at How to Save the World has a good post on the old KM vs. the new KM. He summarizes the differences between the first wave and the second as:
“First-generation KM has vainly sought one-size fits-all integrated enterprise solutions, which are complicated to use and expensive to change, and which focus on content + collection; Second-generation KM must look instead to simple, lightweight, cheap, intuitive, stand-alone apps, which are easy to use, add or change, and which focus on context + connection. In the shift from first to second generation KM, the holy grail changes from cost savings to improvements in knowledge worker effectiveness.”
The article also contains a list of 23 human behaviors that impede the sharing of knowledge and collaboration, and how some recent organizational and technological changes do alleviate some of those impediments. The main message he conveys is:
“The challenges we face today in getting people to share what they know and to collaborate effectively are not caused or cured by technologies, they are cultural impediments. It’s extremely difficult to change people’s behaviours (they usually exist for a reason), so the solutions we find have to accommodate these behaviours, and these cultures, rather than trying to ‘fix’ them.”
While I buy most of what he’s saying, I think that he is missing a few key points. There are two main reasons why KM has not worked in the past. The first one that in most organizations it was a top-down exercise with a disproportionate amount of “perceived” benefits for the organization vs. the individual (we will build a system to make sure that we capture all “your” knowledge if you walk out the door – or if we push you out the door). The second reason is that previous KM tools and processes (i.e., best practice teams, etc.) were never integrated with people’s real work. That meant that KM became a “voluntary” extra-curricular activity – and guess what – most people don’t do that.
For KM initiatives to work, they will have to be grassroots in nature (i.e., no taxonomy but folksonomy), and will indeed have to be based on lightweight tools (including Wiki’s) that integrate with people’s daily work. And most of the “perceived” benefits of the initiative have to be for the individual.