Tuesday night, KM Chicago hosted a panel discussion of area academics who have knowledge management components to their programs. I was excited about this group of speakers because we had academic representatives from library science, computer science and organizational design. But what I heard was three programs who all acknowledge the wide breadth of "what is KM" and bring in perspectives from many disciplines. While there was a general similarity in the overall picture, each program clearly has a different emphasis in what and how they teach.
The panel participants were Kanti Srikantaiah, Director, Center for Knowledge Management at Dominican University; Kimberly Scott, Director, and Jack Vinson (me!), Adjunct Professor, Center for Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University; and Alan Burns, Assistant Professor, School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems DePaul University. More details below.
Prof. Burns of DePaul described the way knowledge and knowledge management are integrated into the courses. There are a couple KM-specific classes, and there are also a wide variety of classes that relate to KM issues, from technology (artificial intelligence) to organizational learning. These span across more than just the computer science department into business and information science. The most interesting aspect of his discussion was his idea for what's next for KM-related programming at DePaul. He is thinking about a program around designing the Virtual Workplace Environment that takes into account disciplines around design, people, technology and organizations.
Prof. Burns suggested that KM, while still important, is part of a larger goal of organizational intelligence. He and Stefan LaFloer have been thinking about this and came up with a definition for organizational intelligence as "The integration of content-, document-, information- and knowledge management processes and technologies into an adaptable and measurable solution." He also made the opposite observation, that several KM experts are now focusing the limited perspective of KM-as-best-practice.
Prof. Srikantaiah discussed the genesis of the Center for KM at Dominican, which came out of the Library & Information Science department with a certificate in KM with four courses: knowledge management, knowledge technologies, organizational analysis and design, and information policy. They observed a lot of enthusiasm for this core of courses and have expanded this into an entire masters-level program in knowledge management that includes collaboration with the business and computer science schools at Dominican.
Prof. Scott and I talked about Northwestern's MS-LOC program, and we attempted to keep things focused on the KM parts of the program. The nice thing about MS-LOC, in my opinion, is the integration of learning, organizational design, change leadership and knowledge management into a whole program.
There was a lot of great discussion following the general descriptions of each school's program. We touched on a variety of questions that apply across the board: How do you keep the academics relevant to industry? What would industry like to see from the academics? Where do students end up finding work (is there a "track" for knowledge management)? And, finally, is the nature of work so complex that defining KM is nearly impossible, as it significantly depends on the kind of work people end up doing?