Patrick Lambe had Larry Prusak and Dave Snowden on a couch and talking about the ever-popular topic of "Is KM Dead?" It's just over 42 minutes. I think Dave Snowden did most of the talking. Here are some sound bytes from the discussion.
0:48 Prusak, "There will always be an interest in learning and knowledge in business." The specifics of how KM is done will come and go.
2:05 Prusak, 3 Generations of knowledge. First, information management with a name change. Second, collaborative technologies (Lotus Notes age). Thirds, something like development economics where there are some general principles but firms each move their own direction with those principles.
3:58 "So what's dead?" Prusak provides a nice list of what is dead: knowledge-as-technology; documents and repositories = knowledge; large bureaucracy is a good idea for working with knowledge; knowledge exists outside of people; knowledge itself can be measured.
4:28 But, as Lambe notes, they are all still walking. Prusak, "They are dead but they won't lie down."
4:55 Snowden's three generations of KM. Pre-Nonaka, Post-Nonaka (focus on codification), number three ???
5:35 Snowden, "Once government adopts something, you know it has died."
6:45 Snowden: Social computing is doing what knowledge management was supposed to allow. But the social computing guys don't want to be attached to the KM label.
7:50 From the 1970's the big consulting firms have controlled a big element of the management fads: TQM -> BPR -> KM.
9:08 "The days of the big fads are over." They are moving to the smaller fads and efforts of smaller firms. [Although Snowden then talks about social computing in this arena of "smaller" fads. I get the impression that social computing is pretty darned big - it's just th I suspect he is suggesting that the attraction of social computing comes from the bottom, rather than from the top and big management consulting firms.]
9:20 Peter Drucker knew Frederick Taylor (Taylor lived that long?). At some point at a conference, Dave Snowden gave Taylor a hard time, and Drucker then tore apart Snowden's comments in front of the conference audience. Drucker has spanned that period from Taylor to the modern period.
10:50 KM didn't have a single guru, whereas many of the other fads did. Looking at KM, there were a number of figures who came in from different angles and different labels. They were brought together under the single KM label.
11:30 Snowden doesn't see this happening again. Complexity and Systems Thinking are fundamentally different, and they cannot be pulled together in the same way.
13:30 Why does KM keep coming back? Interesting discussion of the cycles of KM and KM interest. We see it in the governments who are interested in the topic, and they always start from building repositories and creating (by force) communities of practice. And what do they find - that it doesn't work. These organizations that are coming to KM learn about it from books and literature. And they mostly are not as successful as they had been led to believe.
14:25 Maybe it's not successful because the learning feedback loop is too long, and people don't stay long enough in the practice to to pass along what they've learnt? "There is nothing to pass along." Says Snowden.
15:05 There are practices all over management that have been proven deadly, but they are still used in business. It's a question of how they are sold, rather than their inherent value.
17:15 Snowden talks about practices in social media. And how his work takes advantage of technology to help scale human interaction.
19:50 Lambe, "How do you know this is true (about how wiki's change the social interaction)?" Snowden: "I don't." He believes it because he can trace it back to the natural sciences as a base, and he has used a general approach that allows for experimentation and change if things don't work.
20:02 What is "practice?" It is a combination of well-founded theory and experimentation amongst a group of people who trust that you know what you are doing.
21:31 Snowden, "My daughter wants the elevator pitch of what I do, and I can't explain it." So his daughter's friends thinks he is a spy.
24:26 Snowden, "I think we are going through something which is very much like the renaissance."
24:56 Management schools are (at least) 15 years behind science. Government is even further behind.
27:25 Snowden, "We are coming out of a world of structure and rigidity which labels [?], and we're moving into a network world which is very rapidly interconnected and can evolve very quickly."
27:47 Why are you appearing at KM conferences? Is it to persuade the dead that they are dead? No, the label is still there. But people still have real-world problems that need to be solved.
30:00 (approximately) Snowden: Boundaries of traditional organizations are breaking down. New forms of organizations are possible.
30:00 (approximately) Prusak reacting to the idea of codification.
32:00 Three types of business book: 1) Well-researched and written, sells quickly, but also drops off in sales quickly. Flash in the pan. 2) Academic textbooks, but rather expensive. 3) Books that do well initially and then continue to sell and act as a consolidation for a field or philosophy.
34:30 Prusak specific reaction against a company codifying and archiving thousands of documents into a repository. Companies were sold a bill of goods by management consultants.
36:36 Snowden, "There is no excuse today for document libraries, other than as archives."
37:10 Snowden, "What blogs do is replicate the (university) common room."
37:49 Snowden and Prusak disagree on whether knowledge can be distinct from the knower. Prusak thinks not. Snowden thinks it can exist (sometimes) in the interaction. Books (and other objects) are representations of the producer's knowledge.
Lambe jokes that sometimes his book knows more than he does. My comment is that the objects inspire other people to think and learn and begin to know things that the author may not have conceived. Look at all the ways of interpreting fiction. Were all those things in the author's "knowledge" when they were writing?
39:00 Prusak, "If someone had asked when we started what I wanted to have accomplished with this work (in KM) in 20 years, I would have said that I want the word 'knowledge' to be used in management. And that has happened."
39:45 Will there be knowledge managers in five years? Snowden: yes, but not at the high levels. Prusak: no, they are going to be practice coordinators.
41:13 Lambe, "Librarians who are interested in knowledge leave librarianship."