Stephanie Barnes asks an interesting Knowledge Management Question at her new The Missing Piece blog.
Today's post is a little different than my last few, today I am wondering why all the lessons learned that I see for knowledge management initiatives are the same.
The same? Yes, I have to agree. When people present their "lessons learned" on the big KM project, it is always elements about: get earlier buy-in from IT; ensure management support; don't forget about the key business function located in Timbuktu; etc.
Stephanie suggests an answer that has to do with the nature of how KM professionals grow into their positions - that there is no formal path into knowledge management as a professions. People come from IT, training, HR, education, consulting, sciences, etc, etc. As a result, they may not know where to look for help and guidance. Stephanie also says that while this may have been true in the last decade, there has been enough happening in KM that people should be able to find some resources to help them from just about any discipline.
I think the nature of the problem is the very familiar "not invented here" problem that knowledge management experts know very well. The problem is that this problem happens EVERYWHERE. Take you pick of a discipline, and if you find "lessons" they will be the same. It's nice that KM has a focus on lessons learned, and we have the chance to do better the first time by asking the question. But it is just as easy to fall into the human trap of getting locked into our own world, whether that is by academic discipline or by business focus.
Maybe our educational systems and business training practices need to build in the question, "Who else has done this?" into everything we do. As Stephanie closes her post:
[W]ouldn’t it be a better thing if we as knowledge workers and knowledge management professionals stopped recreating our own wheel and moved it forward? Are we destined to constantly recreate the wheel because of the organizations we work for/in and knowledge management is simply just the next activity on the path of maturing the organization to a knowing organization?
Serendipitously, the poem Mister Know-It-All by Elvis McGonagal just crossed my eyes, thanks to David Gurteen's May 2009 Knowledge Letter. What a perfect connection to this question of why haven't we learned our own lessons? Here it is, as recorded by Chris Collison:
I've eaten all the fruit from the tree of knowledge
I know what's what, I know who's who
I know my onions, I know the ropes
I know a thing or two
I know the way to Amarillo
I know the way to San Jose
I know who let the dogs out
I know the time of day
I know what happened to The Likely Lads
I know what happened to Baby Jane
I know what's eating Gilbert Grape
I know the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
I know who's been eating your porridge
I know who ate all the pies
I know which side my bread is buttered
I know the wheres, the whens, the whys
I know a hawk from a handsaw
I know chalk from cheese
I know they know it's Christmas
I know "thank you very much" in Japanese ("domo arrigato gazaimas")
I know where the bodies are buried
I know whodunnit, I know the score
I know what it's all about, Alfie
I know the capital of Ecuador (Quito)
I know how many roads a man must go down
I know where we go from here
I know why birds suddenly appear
Every time that you are near
I know the known knowns that I know I know
I know the unknown knowns that I don't
And as for Mr Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns -
Will I admit I don't know I don't know? No I won't
I know that unlike Barack Obama
Most politicians don't have a single scruple
I know that one of the speakers today
Used to be a roadie for Mott the Hoople
I'm a walking wikipedia
I'm a mobile reference library
I've got more knowledge than a London cabby
I know the quickest way from Highgate to Highbury
But little do you know that I know that you know
That I know what I know is no use
Unless I pass it on, put it over and get it across
There's no mileage in a mastermind recluse
For facts are fine as far as they go
As long as new ideas come from what we glean
Just knowing stuff is not enough
We gotta innovate – know what I mean?
And even if we know who wants to be a millionaire
We know they know that others must cooperate
That they'll have to ask the audience, they'll have to phone a friend
Communicate, convey, collaborate
We've got to work as a team, pull together
Join forces, pool resources, play ball
We gotta sail in the same boat baby
It's all for one and one for all
So – I know who put the "ram" in the "ramalamadingdong"
I know who put the "bop" in the "bop-sh-bop"
But the best piece of knowledge I'll share with you today is -
I know when to stop
by Elvis McGonagall
for the KM Forum Conference