I wrote in the previous blog about the “Organizational Brain” (lower right or yellow quadrant in the diagram below). The Organizational Brain is a superb instrument for storing, providing, replicating and leveraging explicit knowledge but explicit knowledge by itself cannot create value. Information just sitting in a database does not create value. It is only when PEOPLE apply knowledge that value can be created (upper left or green quadrant in the diagram).
There are few exceptions. In a fully robotized factory, technology (~explicit knowledge), almost by itself, creates value. I said “almost” because there will always be humans overseeing the factory. Even in highly automated systems such as Ultra-Large Crude Carriers (ULCCs), about two dozen crew members are needed to manage its sophisticated technological systems.
Value may be created from explicit knowledge such as when a company sells the patents, copyrights, tools, software and formulas it had internally developed. Of course, the original source of this explicit knowledge is the tacit knowledge of the employees who developed them.
In short, the main creators of value are PEOPLE: individuals and teams using their tacit knowledge: this is a central tenet in the knowledge economy. In the diagram below, these are located in the left quadrants, particularly the green quadrant. Structural capital and technology (right quadrants) are only supportive. Note that the diagram is again based on Ken Wilber’s framework. You can go back to the following blogs to read about Ken Wilber’s framework: (click on any link)
There are four critical tasks facing a Learning Organization:
Task 1: Enhance employees’ tacit knowledge (green quadrant) especially those that create most value for the organization.
Task 2: Convert useful individual tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge — the form easily replicable and re-usable by more people in the organization (conversion from green to yellow quadrant using Pathways 2, 3 or 4).
Task 3: Facilitate re-use or practice of the right explicit knowledge by the right people (conversion back to green quadrant). Pathway 6 does this. Through practice explicit knowledge is converted into the practitioner’s own tacit knowledge (see “D4- Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge and vice-versa”). Some organizations analyze, recombine, correlate and mine their Organizational Brain into more useful forms (Pathway 5).
Task 4: Acquire needed knowledge from outside (Pathways 7-10 in the diagram below)
Some KM tools for Task 1 are:
- Pathway 1 or replication of individual tacit knowledge: Mentoring, coaching, understudy, buddy system, lecture-demonstration, peer assist, cross-visits, knowledge sharing among a community of practitioners. Some of these KM tools tend to lie “outside the radar” of HR practitioners because the HRD framework looks at the individual employee as the unit of management, while the KM framework is based on managing value-creating knowledge across employees.
- Various tools to enhance employee motivation and engagement; our empirical findings at CCLFI reveal the importance of motivational factors (see: “A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers” and “Practical Exercise: Ingredients of Effective Group Action”)
Some KM tools for Task 2 (individual tacit knowledge to group explicit knowledge) are:
- Pathway 2 (the predominant knowledge pathway for Task 2): Manualization, process documentation, learning history, individual mind mapping, blog, surveys and questionnaires.
- Pathway 3: Lessons-learned session, after-action review, wiki or collaborative authoring, group exercises for thinking together such as mind mapping, causal flow diagramming, fishbone diagramming, etc.
- Pathway 4: Video capture of story telling, company visioning exercise accompanied by documentation, minutes or aide memoire of a meeting and conceptual design brainstorming among architects
Some KM tools for Task 3 are:
- Pathway 5 or recombination: Data mining, performance metrics followed by identification and study of best practitioner, multiple regression or path analysis to detect causal linkages and contributions, statistical summaries and fitting trend lines to data.
- Pathway 6 or group explicit knowledge converted to individual tacit knowledge in many: Practicum, learning-by-doing, on-the-job training, workplace-oriented mentoring, action research, R&D, experimentation and replication/adaptation of best practice.
We know that the usual means for Task 4 are: purchase of knowledge products, hiring new employees, buying a franchise to quickly use a ready product and its support network, engaging a consultant, copying from the public domain, business intelligence procedures, etc.
I have written about these knowledge pathways in Section 3.5 of my Overview chapter in the book “Knowledge Management in Asia: Experience and Lessons” published in 2008 by the Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo, Japan. If you wish to receive a copy of this chapter, send me an email.
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