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.

Supply and demand of knowledge

[Update: Something happened to the first couple of sentences when I posted this last week. My apologies to Dave Snowden for dropping the appropriate attribution.]

For people in the knowledge management community, Dave Snowden has articulated one of the big challenges of knowledge management. When it comes to filling a "knowledge base" with "knowledge," it is difficult to force people to provide what they know. His seven rules of Rendering Knowledge describe the problem fairly well. And these are based on an earlier three rules.   

  • 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. 

I have referred to these from time to time, and I keep them in mind as I think and read about knowledge management.  This has even come up on a non-KM mailing list recently, where one of the long-time members of the list was asked to provide a history of the topic, and he said he would remember best if people were to ask more specific questions.

Nick Milton has recently been thinking about these and suggests that Snowden's rules are primarily about the person who is offering knowledge (the "supply" side of KM). What about the people doing the requesting? Milton has come up with a list of rules for the "demand" side of KM as well, 8 demand-side KM principles. (Or maybe this is more about the people who are getting knowledge pushed at them?)

  • People don't pay attention to knowledge until they actually need it.
  • People value knowledge that they request more highly than knowledge that is unsolicited. 
  • People won't use knowledge, unless they trust its provenance. 
  • Knowledge has to be reviewed in the user's own context before it can be received.
  • One of the biggest barriers to accepting new knowledge is old knowledge.
  • Knowledge has to be adapted before it can be adopted.
  • Knowledge will be more effective the more personal it is.
  • They won't really know it until they do it.

Milton provides a lot more thought behind each of these in his blog post.  I like the thinking here.  Somehow the first entry resonates for me today.

Attending #TOCICO in Chicago

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