This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Rules of knowledge management

SharingA couple weeks ago, Chris Collison had an entertaining post on How children share – Davenport’s Kindergarten Rationale. He included this list from Davenport's Working Knowledge on why children share:

  • You share with the friends you trust
  • You share when you’re sure you’ll get something in return
  • Your toys are more special than anyone else’s
  • You share when the teacher tells you to, until she turns her back
  • When toys are scarce, there’s less sharing
  • Once yours get taken, you never share again

I would love to see excerpts from the video he made of children responding to questions about how they share with one another!

Chris made the obvious connection to knowledge management discussions of why people do (or do not) share with one another. This thought led me to Dave Snowden's ever popular (to me) expanded set of rules associated with Rendering Knowledge (also referenced as his Seven Principles of Knowledge Management):

  • Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted.
  • We only know what we know when we need to know it.
  • In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.
  • Everything is fragmented.
  • Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success.
  • The way we know things is not the way we report we know things.
  • We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down.

These principles, which Dave has built up over the years, are something I always come back to in thinking about knowledge management and the struggles people have in getting things rolling. How much of technology is involved in any of these statements?

Compare Snowden's and Davenport's lists. There is a lot of similarity. Davenport reflecting a more practical set of rules and guidelines to behaviors, while Snowden is reflecting a more academic description of the underlying motivations. I see these ideas frequently when I look at KM - even when I look at continuous improvement projects. The underlying goal in many of those is to get people working together better. And the heart of working together is sharing what we know / think / understand with one another, so that we can solve problems together. When we try to force it or when he culture isn't prepared, it just isn't going to happen.

And while I was looking for Dave's article, my search engine found a different list of rules associated with knowledge management: Seven Spiritual Laws of Successful Knowledge Management by Marcus Speh Birkenkrahe in a Nov 2000 issue of Inside Knowledge. These are at once "far out" and interestingly thoughtful and introspective. I love the inward-looking nature of these laws, while at the same time they say a lot about how we bring KM ideas to our clients and colleagues.

  • The Law of Unity: The source of all creativity is experience of the true Self.
  • The Law of Giving. The easiest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.
  • The Law of Cause and Effect. Your future is created by the choices you are making in every moment of your life.
  • The Law of Least Effort. When you remain open to all points of view, your dreams and desires will flow effortlessly.
  • The Law of Intention and Desire. Whatever you attend to, will grow stronger. Whatever you take your attention away from, will wither.
  • The Law of Detachment. Uncertainty is the fertile ground of creativity and freedom.
  • The Law of Purpose in Life. There is something that you can do better than anyone else in the whole world.

Interesting. There we have three lists associated with knowledge management, from the kindergarten-simple to the academically-correct to the subliminally spiritual. They all seem to say something about our view of knowledge management. I think they go beyond strictly KM and into thoughts about how people work together overall. And how we learn and grow as individuals and organizations.

And since I cannot help my own curiosity, this title appeared in the search too: The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information by Alan Liu, an English professor at UCSB. Anyone familiar with it?

[Photo: "Sharing" by Andy Woo]

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