KM in the Digital World

Knowledge Management

KM Defined

A good place to start with this entry is defining what Knowledge Management (KM) is. Koenig (2018) provides the classic one-line definition, “Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” This definition has an internal focus, but today the concept is much broader and must also consider the importance of using information from web-based platforms. Koenig explains KM by looking at what it is trying to accomplish, what it consists of, and looking at the stages of development.

KM Evolution

According to Dixon (2009), KM is about making use of the collective knowledge in an organization. Knowledge was first thought of as being static and collected and stored until needed. We live in a constantly changing world, which means our knowledge is not static but continues to grow. The second stage of knowledge looks at knowledge as dynamic and no longer stable. People bring different experiences and learn from those experiences through reflection. The third stage is about leveraging collective knowledge and bringing people together with cognitive diversity to solve complex problems.

This progression of knowledge aligns with Kelly’s (2016) discussion of the technological forces that are shaping the future. Today the social networks operate in real-time and can easily be accessed from our many screens. Content can go viral and be shared instantaneously, reaching many people. “The internet is less a creation dictated by economics than one dictated by sharing gifts” (Kelly, 2016, p. 144). Jardace (2018) talks about knowledge-sharing, which is relatively easy to do in the digital world. One of the benefits is the continuous learning this allows. As people get new information from social platforms, they make sense of it, apply it and then share what they have learned with others. With technology and so many different social platforms, information is abundant, but we still need to make sense of it and help it inform our knowledge.

Davenport (2015) provides a different KM perspective and questions its relevance today. He stated there appears to be little interest in this concept anymore. However, to support his point about ongoing evidence of a pulse, here is a doctoral class spending a week on the concept. That tells me understanding the role of KM today is important. Koenig (2018) stated that KM is here to stay based on a lit analysis they did. As Davenport (2015) noted, knowledge itself is not any less important. What has significantly changed is how people acquire knowledge, the amount and speed of information that comes at us, and the need to vet the information for its accuracy.

Relevance Today

I think KM is still relevant today, but it needs to evolve to align with the digital world. Knowledge is consumed differently today, most coming from digital platforms and web-based tools. As consumers of online information, we need to be cognizant of the potential for fake news and bad information. Kelly (2016) talked about the sharing technology that allows everyone to have a digital voice and share content, but no one vets what is shared. This can be a positive, but it also requires we approach information with caution. Based on research by Pew, fake news has left Americans confused about facts, and trust in news organizations has decreased. Pew Research predicted that new credentialing systems will emerge, as AI increases, the quality of information will improve, and misinformation will be addressed with the ability to fact-check information. All positive steps in making digital information more reliable to use to make better decisions through KM.

Leadership’s Role in KM

Leaders have a critical role to play in this digital age of KM and the digital sharing of information. Today, the world faces man complex problems. These problems require innovative solutions and interdisciplinary leadership. As Dixon (2009) noted, leveraging collective knowledge is need to address complex problems. This requires bringing cognitively diverse perspectives to the conversation. Web-based tools can be used to support collaboration among diverse experiences and knowledge. Leaders do not have the answers but can bring diverse voices with different knowledge to the table, leading them to work together to bring forward innovative solutions.

References

Davenport, T. H. (2015, June 24). What happened to knowledge management? The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-CIOB-7428

Dixon, N. (2009, May 2). Where knowledge management has been and where it is going. https://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html

Jardace, H. (2018). Knowledge-sharing paradox redux. https://jarche.com/2018/07/knowledge-sharing-paradox-redux/

Kelly, K. (2016). The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. Penguin Books.

Koenig, M. E. (2018, January 15). What is KM? Knowledge management explained. KM World. https://www.kmworld.com/About/What_is_Knowledge_Management

Raine, L. (2017, June). Education in the age of fake news and disputed facts. [PowerPoint slides]. Slide Share. Pew Research Center. https://www.slideshare.net/PewInternet/education-in-the-age-of-fake-news-and-disputed-facts

Raine. L. (n.d.). The future of democracy and civic innovation. [PowerPoint slides]. Slide Share. Pew Research Center. https://www.slideshare.net/PewInternet

11 thoughts on “KM in the Digital World

  1. Whose voice should a leader listen to? When everyone has a voice, should every voice count? This is an interesting consideration for leading in the information and networked age. As you mentioned leaders need to be welcoming of a variety of opinions and inputs, many outside their own organization. How does a leader determine what data from whom is important and how does the leader determine if the information is valid or not?

    This is the complexity of leading in today’s world. This brings up your point that in the future, some kind of validation and verification system should be created (Rainie, 2017). Of course, whoever runs that will provide their own subjective lens, much like Facebook and other social media today. Also, how does the leader sift through the vast amounts of data to make sense of it? I looked up how to verify a source is valid on the internet. These four categories came up: source’s authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage (https://libanswers.tcl.edu/faq/6286). Of course, this is still subjective but it is a start. In the future, we may turn to a Consumer Reports type objective coverage or some kind of paid analysis that is based on objectivity.
    References

    Library Answers, 2021. https://libanswers.tcl.edu/faq/6286

    Rainie, L. (2017, June). Education in the age of fake news and disputed facts. [PowerPoint slides]. Slide Share. Pew Research Center. https://www.slideshare.net/PewInternet/education-in-the-age-of-fake-news-and-disputed-facts

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    1. Thank you for your comment. You posed some thoughtful questions about voices that leaders should listen to. Page (2017) noted the great value of cognitive diversity in solving complex problems requiring innovative solutions. He stated that diversity of voices cannot be arbitrary but that leaders should make reasoned judgments about what diversity might be germane to the problem. His insight on the diversity bonus is helpful to understating the great importance different experiences can bring to the discussion.

      Take care.
      Megan

      Page, S. E. (2017). The diversity bonus: How great teams pay off in the knowledge economy. Princeton University Press.

      Like

  2. An insightful post! As I was reading, I thought about an example this week of how sharing adds value. For 15 years, Jane Hart of the UK’s Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has surveyed a diverse group of educators, business leaders, corporate trainers, and government officials about their top tools for learning. For the first decade, hundreds and then thousands of professionals sent her their top ten tools (myself included), and from this, she compiled a Top 100 Tools for Learning. In the past five years, the number of tools continued to grow, so she expanded her list to the Top 200 Tools. Then this year, so many new tools were suggested that she grew her list to the Top 300 Tools – https://www.toptools4learning.com/

    Jane shares this with the world … but it is based on professionals sharing first (2,077 professionals from 33 countries). To me, this ties in to your post … and it suggests an answer to Hilda831’s question.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Dr. Watwood. The new Top Tools for Learning must just have been released. 300 – wow! That is leveraging collective knowledge at its best! It is a good example of many concepts – bringing in multiple voices, a validation process, and a subjective lens.

      While the top 3 stayed the same, there were a couple of big shifts in tech tools. Glad to see Canva move up 5 spots. Telegram, a messaging app, when up 149 spots. Might need to check what that is all about!

      Megan

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  3. Donate and de Pablo (2015) examined the role of knowledge-oriented leadership in the knowledge management (KM) initiatives to achieve innovation. I thought this was interesting because they found a mediating effect of KM practices in the relationship of leadership to KM (Donate & de Pablo, 2015). The ability to use that information to improve performance is important and it aligns to the results of diversity on innovation that you mentioned. Information overload was mentioned in comment, do you think that makes knowledge management more difficult? Is it due to too many connections, too much information, or too much information from too many places? And is it information, or is it really data that never makes its way to information? I have had experience with data that never makes it way to information and certainly not knowledge when there is just too much with very little analytical ability. What’s clear to me though after this week’s material is that leadership skill refinement is a must in today’s digital world! This certainly includes remote leadership or distributive team leadership.

    Steve O’

    Donate, M. J., & de Pablo, J. D. S. (2015). The role of knowledge-oriented leadership in knowledge management practices and innovation. Journal of business research, 68(2), 360-370.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Steven. Valid point about information overload and that not all information makes it to KM. I work with students on this concept quite a bit. When I assign a project requiring research, I can end up with a student who doesn’t know when to stop collecting information because there is so much out there. However, the student then struggles with pulling all that content into her knowledge base to structure a paper using that knowledge. I also have students who grab the first few articles and don’t vet the source of information. I work with students on these skills because employers will expect students to find high-quality information that can be synthesized. Here is a Pew Research (2012) article about this issue. It looks like I am not the only one helping students develop needed skills to be consumers of high-quality information.

      Megan

      Purcell, K., Rainie, L., Buchanan, J., Friedrich, L., Jacklin, A., Chen, C., & Zickuhr, K. (2012, November, 1). Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2012/11/01/how-teens-do-research-in-the-digital-world/

      Like

  4. I like your expansive view on KM; that it should not just be in the organization, but the organization should use outside forces like social media. What are the benefits and potential risks for organizations reaching for knowledge outside of the organization?

    Cameron

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Cameron. As we see in Kelly (2016) there are many benefits from bringing in outside information. It is timely and provides a wider range of information to bring in because everyone’s voice can be heard. The downside is the quality of information and the potential for fake news.

      Kelly, K. (2016). The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. Penguin Books.

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  5. MMK831 and Cameron, I found the question about when should you use outside sources and when not a timely concern. In my industry, there are many companies trying to sell something. It is hard to distinguish was it really a noteworthy idea or a product being sold. It takes judgment and leadership competence to distinguish. I also find in an industry you know who to trust and you keep going back to your same network of trusted partners. Reputation is precious and even more so in this world of not knowing whether to believe something or not. Here is an article on the validation of sources and who is providing data that will become very necessary in the future to help leaders distinguish who is posting on social media (https://www.pymnts.com/authentication/2021/in-the-age-of-social-media-influencers-need-digital-ids-and-verified-credentials/.

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    1. Thanks for sharing the article. Interesting idea about credentialing. We heard that same idea from Pew Research (Raine, 2017). You make a good point that people tend to go back to those they trust. The problem with that is that it doesn’t widen someone’s network opening it up to new voices. This is an important conversation and I appreciate your insight.

      Megan

      Raine, L. (2017, June). Education in the age of fake news and disputed facts. [PowerPoint slides]. Slide Share. Pew Research Center. https://www.slideshare.net/PewInternet/education-in-the-age-of-fake-news-and-disputed-facts

      Like

  6. Great post this week, KM underwent an evolution during the pandemic as KM teams deployed new systems into the market and refashioned physical meetings and events, thus making it possible for people to meet virtually, maintaining business connectivity and continuity. The evolution has resulted in a long-term solution of keeping important knowledge accessible to every relevant person.

    Like

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