Jeffrey Phillips of Thinking Faster picked up on "Companies Struggle To Pass On Knowledge That Workers Acquire" by Scott Thurm in the Wall Street Journal last week (registration required). Phillips then goes onto talk about some of the barriers for traditional KM, focusing on critical mass. Thinking Faster: Managing in the Knowledge Age:
... Of all the management concepts and enterprise applications that have held significant promise, none has failed to deliver more spectacularly than knowledge management.
Why? Several reasons - critical mass, willingness to share information and the difficulty of defining "knowledge". One big challenge is the issue of critical mass.
I like how Phillips talks about this problem. He's looking at KM efforts geared at making "stuff" available to people, as opposed to those that are geared around connecting people to one another. These are a classic example of "what's in it for me" (WIIFM) thinking. At the outset, KM systems frequently don't have enough "stuff" in them to be interesting to enough people -- they don't have the critical mass to reach enough people that will set up a virtuous cycle of ongoing contributions. As Phillips suggests, it is imperative in the early stages to have an evangelist AND top management promoting the use of the tools. (The tools have to be actually useful as well as having the potential for having useful content.)