Archive for November, 2008

D5- Vertical versus Horizontal Learning

November 30, 2008

In purely vertical feedback, only the boss learns; the subordinates merely follow orders. In purely horizontal feedback among peers, anyone can feedback to anyone; everyone learns. In reality, what happens is a mix of the two types.


An example applied to development projects:


It can happen that a project failed (project objectives were not met) yet it generated much useful knowledge, and vice versa.

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D4- Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge and vice-versa

November 28, 2008

This diagram shows the losses when tacit knowledge is converted to explicit knowledge:


Here are ways we build our own tacit knowledge from explicit knowledge that we read:


Corresponding KM tools are in the pink and light blue callouts.

In learning certain skills, reading a manual may be incomplete or inadequate. For example, in riding a bicycle the usual learning sequence is: observe – practice, or observe – practice with coaching. I further improved the first figure above by including “demonstrate” and the second figure by including practice “with coaching” (thanks to two suggestions from Charlie Dibsdale).

The figures include the comments for improvement from Silva Ferretti (thanks Silva!). If you have other comments or suggestions for improvement, please post it here.

You can use these diagrams for non-commercial purposes but please give CCLFI acknowledgement each time you show or use it. CCLFI is the KM, OL (=organizational learning) and KBD (=knowledge-based development) advocacy, training and consulting organization I belong to.


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D3- Tacit Knowledge versus Explicit Knowledge

November 28, 2008



  • Operational definitions are less prone to misunderstanding and debate, e.g. “undocumented” is preferable to “difficult to document.”
  • Avoid confusing the KM definition of the term “knowledge” with the large variety of laymen understanding of the word (see my earlier post on “A Proposed KM Framework”).

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D2- Knowledge Management versus Information Management

November 28, 2008

Here is my first pass. Please help me add, revise or improve this by posting a Comment (see below).


Again, this is based on the definition of “knowledge” (see my earlier post on “A Proposed KM Framework”).

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D1- Knowledge versus Information

November 27, 2008

This is what I use to show the distinction between information and knowledge. It is based on the definition of “knowledge” among some leading KM practitioners (see my earlier post on “A Proposed KM Framework”)


information vs knowledge


  • Read the diagram as a Venn diagram e.g. “actionable information” is a subset of “explicit knowledge” (thanks to Diego Maranan).
  • Not all tacit knowledge can be made explicit (“We know more than we can tell or write”) and so the upward arrow is often an incomplete process.
  • I prefer the above operational definitions of “tacit knowledge” and “explicit knowledge.” I shy away from ontological and epistemological definitions because they tend to be too impractical and often deteriorate into useless debates.

Adapted from: Overview chapter I wrote in the book “Knowledge Management in Asia: Experiences and Lessons”. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization, 2008. The e-book is freely downloadable.

You can use the diagram for non-commercial purposes but please give CCLFI acknowledgement each time you show or use it. CCLFI is the KM, OL (=organizational learning) and KBD (=knowledge-based development) advocacy, training and consulting organization I belong to.


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Useful Distinctions in KM (or D Series)

November 27, 2008

My latest blogpost is the next one below and immediately following this, because this post is only the table of contents to the USEFUL DISTINCTIONS IN KM or D SERIES of my blogposts. Come back every few days to check each new post in this series.

D1- Knowledge versus information
D2- KM versus information management
D3- Tacit knowledge versus explicit knowledge
D4- Converting tacit to explicit knowledge and vice-versa
D5- Vertical learning versus horizontal learning
D6- IT track versus people track
D7- Supply-driven versus demand-driven KM
D8- Knowledge push versus knowledge pull
D9- Strategic KM versus operational KM
D10- KM tools: qualitative to quantitative
D11- Tangible versus intangible assets
D12- Relationship capital versus stakeholder capital versus customer capital
D13- Bridging social capital versus bonding social capital
D14- Innovation versus invention
D15- Knowledge culture versus knowledge capture
D16- Best practice versus next practice
D17- Single-loop learning versus double-loop learning
D18- Teaching versus facilitating learning
D19- Debate versus discussion versus dialogue
D20- IQ (head) versus EQ (heart) in KM
D21- Training versus learning-in-action

[© Quotations with acknowledgements or references/links to this blog are encouraged but copying and republishing without acknowledging this source is illegal. See Copyright Notice at right panel.]

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F15- Our Development Concepts may be THE Problem

November 14, 2008

The previous two blog posts point to a key criterion in KM for development: What do community members truly value?

In 2003, CCLFI.Philippines implemented a project on “Leveraging Best Practices” for UNDP. We documented best practices into manuals, and tried to capture the qualities of best practioners through vignettes and video interviews. We invited community leaders who were recipients of UNDP grants in lessons-capture workshops. Near the end of the project, we conducted a “Wisdom and Knowledge Sharing Workshop.”

One of the workshop exercises tried to probe what the community members value by asking the question: “What is a successful community project?” The workshop groups were asked to draw their answers and explain their drawing to the rest of the participants.

One of the workshop groups drew this answer. “Tagumapay” is the Tagalog word for “success”.

what is success to the community

One of the group members, Annabelle, explained their answer (translated from Tagalog, shortened and edited while maintaining the essential ideas):

    For us, the start of development is like making walis tingting.* [*Note: “Walis tingting” is a local broom (“walis”) consisting of about a hundred coconut midriffs (“tingting”) tied together. This coconut broom represents a well-known local metaphor for unity: one coconut midriff cannot do anything; it is powerless. But when many are tied together (unity of the community), they gain strength and efficacy.]

    First, the leafy part from each coconut leaflet is removed by a knife to produce one tingting [midriff]. This is like individual discipline: it is difficult or painful but when done, it is a small success. Then many tingtings are tied together into a broom. This is community discipline and unity – a bigger success. With a broom you can clean the seashore of garbage. If the community is united and a project answers community needs – when families get their own house, land and livelihood and they can help themselves and the community – then the project is successful. However, that is not the end-all of success.

    The last stage [see last arrow pointing to houses inside a heart] is when you no longer need the broom because every community member understands and respects or feel responsible for the environment, and no longer throws garbage. That is far greater success.

Reflecting on their answer, my colleagues at CCLFI.Philippines learned these lessons:

  • My colleagues and I were expecting that community leaders will mention material measures of success. They did (house, land and livelihood) but they placed more attention to intangible outcomes (individual discipline, community unity, and internalized sense of responsibility).
  • Our thinking was based on the sustainable development framework, which looks at economic, social and environmental impacts — all about external impacts. The community leaders’ thinking is wider: they also look at external impacts but they look further: at internal or personal impacts. We were tied to the concept of sustainable development; but they were more into sustainable living.
  • We — “the development agents” — realized that our notion of what is valuable to them is just that: a notion. The shocking clincher is: our development concepts or notions may be THE problem.

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F14- M&E of KM for Development

November 11, 2008

“KM for Development” or KM4D can be seen from different viewpoints.

Level 1. Community viewpoint

We saw earlier in “Unconscious KM and Conscious KM” that successful anti-poverty projects are those that leveraged well the intangible assets owned by or accessible to the community, and that the broader concept of “intangible assets” and the even broader construct of “metacapital” are preferable units of management than the more limited “knowledge assets” or “knowledge”. From this community or “insider” viewpoint, the concerns are:

  • Identify and leverage on strong intangible assets of the community
  • Identify and neutralize weaknesses and risks in community intangible assets
  • Identify, select and design projects that address priority community needs and leverages on community intangible assets
  • With whom and how to best link up with stakeholders who can best support their projects
  • Embed self-learning processes in community projects.

M&E of KM4D at this level refers to tracking and evaluating community intangible assets: existing before a development project, those leveraged or used in the project, and what the project brings in from or enables access to the outside. It is M&E of community KM, or better, it is M&E of community tangible and intangible assets and their management.

A special case is KM by MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises); this is a new frontier, where the main issue is how to translate the successful KM practices in the larger corporate sectors to the MSME level. Note that “KM by MSMEs” is not the same as “KM for MSMEs” which is a concern of development workers and institutions (Level 2). MicroLINKS is an example of the latter.

Level 2. Development workers and development institutions’ viewpoints

From our studies of successful local development projects in the Philippines, facilitating information/knowledge flows to/from various development actors did not emerge as a success factor. Yet, this is the common framework in most KM4D discourse. Knowledge sharing is an issue more at this level than at the community level. One sees this assumption cutting across various concerns voiced in KM4D communities:

  • Provide the development worker the right information/knowledge at the right time
  • Facilitate cross-project learning
  • Collect and share good/best practices and tools
  • Provide local communities with the information, knowledge and technologies they need
  • Set up knowledge-sharing communities
  • Facilitate organizational learning
  • Learn from project successes/failures to design/innovate better development projects and programs

These basically “outsider” concerns are patently different from community or “insider” concerns in Level 1.

M&E of KM4D at this level refers to tracking and evaluating the management of knowledge deployed by development workers and development institutions. It is M&E of organizational KM, program KM or project KM. An on-going task here is to borrow and adapt workable M&E of KM approaches from the corporate sector to the development sector.

3. Local and national government viewpoints

At the national-level, the KM4D discourse centers around the search for appropriate government strategies, policies and programs to enhance national intellectual capital/assets and to use these assets for national development including to capture opportunities in the emerging global knowledge economy. The most well-known effort in this direction is led by the World Bank using its Knowledge-Based Economy or KBE model, and its accompanying quantitative M&E system of indicators, namely, the Knowledge Assessment Methodology or KAM. The Asian Development Bank attempted to improve on the KBE model, which is focused only on the economic dimension, by proposed a Knowledge-Based Development or KBD model which seeks to marry the intellectual capital framework from KM with the sustainable development framework spearheaded by the UN primarily via the 1992 Rio Summit. Similar M&E indicators under ADB’s KBD model has not yet been developed.

KM4D among local governments is another new level of discourse and programmatic attention. In the Philippines, this is taking the form of KM slowly being adopted within and across local governments, as well as by the Local Government Academy, the training and R&D arm of the Department of Interior and Local Governments. The World Bank had supported a successful knowledge-sharing program across Philippine cities and among city mayors, called the City Development Strategies (CDS) project.

In places where sub-national and trans-national political factions are engaged in conflict (e.g. Congo in Africa, Mindanao in the Philippines, Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal border areas), “peace and development” is the dominant discourse. Using KM language, their main task is how to create or strengthen inclusive “bridging social capital” across warring social groups, and how to reduce the type of “bonding social capital” within each group that cultivate exclusively internal social cohesion at the expense of social cohesion across the wider national system. Here, development can hardly proceed until after a minimum threshold of peace (e.g. ceasefire and political negotiations/agreements) had been set in place.

Note that power — the power to influence what eventually happens at the local level and the power to set the agenda for development discourse — is least at Level 1 and greater at Levels 2 and/or 3. Note, too, that “KM4D” comes from the language of Level 2 discourse.

In an earlier post entitled “Proposed M&E Framework”, I have given illustrative examples of M&E at three stages: knowledge available (supply), action or user of knowledge (demand), and results of application of knowledge (output and outcomes). Those examples can be broken down further according to the three levels above plus two categories: networks and corporate sector, as follows:


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F13- KM is for Value Creation: WHOSE Value?

November 8, 2008

We learn many new things: concepts, skills and perspectives. To me, learning new perspectives is most important. When I learn a new perspective, it is almost like “having new eyes” to see what I could hardly see before. It is gaining a better understanding of how the world really works. The result is contributing better solutions or less problems to the world. Gregory Bateson said,

    “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks.”

Let me share with you many “eye-openers” that my KM team experienced last April 2008.

My NGO — CCLFI.Philippines — in partnership with another NGO — Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), the largest civil society development funding agency in the Philippines — scanned more than 950 anti-poverty projects PEF had funded since 1992 and studied the few most successful ones. The “eye-openers”:

Learning #1: Successful projects are so because they leveraged the local community’s intangible assets (cultural/social capital, structural and stakeholder capital, access rights, indigenous knowledge, etc.). Success factors are not coming from outside!

Learning #2: Facilitating information/knowledge flows (the prevailing paradigm in KM for development or KM4D communities) did not emerge as a success factor. Success is not from good KM among development actors but from good management of intangible assets of and by the community!

Learning #3: Many so-called “poor” communities are only financially poor (or they are poor only in infrastructure and other tangible assets). Many are wealthy in intangibles! As development professionals, we had to revisit our mental model of “poverty”.

Learning #4: We saw a parallel with global trends where market values of corporations consist more and more of their intangible than their tangible assets. Intangible assets have become more important for value creation, whether for community development or for profit making!

Learning #5: We also noted that more powerful actors in the external environment are, wittingly or unwittingly, draining the tangible and intangible assets of many local communities:

  • Commercial banks’ local branches are more deposit takers than lenders; the result: private savings are siphoned off from the local areas to Manila, the capital city (drain in financial capital)
  • Companies extract local natural resources, and most of the economic proceeds go to Manila and outside the country (loss of natural capital)
  • The central government collects taxes from the local governments and returns only a fraction for local government operations and for local development (drain in fiscal resources)
  • The brightest young talents migrate to Manila and abroad (loss of human capital)

Indeed, as Marcel Proust said,

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

To help fellow development practitioners gain “new eyes”, we developed a new framework we called Knowledge for Poverty Alleviation or KPA framework. We are now in the process of developing operational toolkits following this new approach. It is the application at the village level of the KBD or Knowledge-Based Development that former Head of Asian Development Bank’s Knowledge Center Daan Boom and I developed at ADB in 2007.

My last several blogs provided examples of how to measure the benefits and costs of managing tangible and intangible assets, which I argued is a better approach than managing only knowledge assets (=KM).

In the public and development sectors, value creation is often not measurable in economic terms. The reason: “valued results” of public service or development projects are often not traded in the marketplace, and thus there are no buyers and sellers who can negotiate and agree on their fair market value.

How then do we measure or assess value creation in the public and development sectors? A prior question is: WHOSE valued result are we going to assess? Development is a complex multi-stakeholder affair. Many actors and stakeholders are involved in development projects and each of them has their own definition of what is the “VALUED RESULT” they expect from a project:

  • Beneficiary community and each member of the beneficiary community
  • Project funder, lender or donor
  • Development NGO or institution which may be the lead implementor the project, and the development workers or professionals employed by the NGO
  • Local government which may be the recipient, conduit or guarantor of the development funds, and the elected or appointed officials therein
  • National government and the officials therein
  • Technology providers, construction companies, infrastructure and utilities providers, service providers
  • Academe, development research institutions and other support systems.

In the private sector, “value creation” is measured by unit price paid by consumers less unit production/distribution costs. This is what enters our GDP and GNP calculations. Actually, value creation is somewhat higher, because the “satisfaction of the consumer” is his/her consumer surplus which is the difference between what he/she is willing to pay for a product/service and the price he/she actually paid for it. Therefore, total value created = consumer surplus + producer/distributor profit.

In the development sector, the end consumer is the beneficiary community and all its individual members. And so my answer to my own question of “whose value” is: what the beneficiary community values. If all other stakeholders are happy, but beneficiary community members are not, I don’t think development has taken place.

Hence, to assess value creation in the public and development sectors, my view is twofold: (a) first and foremost, we must truly gauge the “satisfaction of the consumers” who are the members of the local beneficiary community. Many tools are at our disposal for “truly gauging” their satisfaction (from the structured surveys and interviews to the more unstructured story telling/listening, to unobtrusive behaviors such as extent of voluntary participation in the community project, and to a slew of other tools that look at both tangible and intangible outcomes of a project). (b) Secondly, we must look at the project outcome from a global sustainable development perspective (which can be the topic in another blog post).

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F12- Relationships Do Create Value

November 5, 2008

The following examples tell us something:

  • The explosive growth of the Internet and e-commerce
  • GATT and the emergence and growth of many regional common markets: European Union, ECOWAS, MERCOSUR, GCC, CACM, AFTA, NAFTA, APEC, SARCC, SADC, EAC, ECOW, SAPTA, CARICOM, CER, Andean Community, etc.
  • The emergence of new social networks and practices, together with a slew of new terms: “crowd sourcing”, “peer production”, “collective intelligence networks”, “massively distributed collaboration”, “wiki and collaborative authoring”, “prediction markets”, “open source communities”, “weapons of mass collaboration”, “peering”, etc.
  • Networks being bought and sold: Yahoo bought Flickr for $30 million; News Corp. bought for $580 million; Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion!

These examples all tell us that networks, connectivity or relationships create value. Social capital, like other forms of metacapital, create value. The examples in the last bullet point prove that networks do create market value.

The secret of success behind the large varieties of fast-emerging network-based business models are the following four principles:

  • 1- Positive network externalities: additional network members create potential benefit to all network members
  • 2- Metcalf’s Law: the value of a many-to-many network is proportional to n2 (the square of n, where n is the number of network members)
  • 3- Information and knowledge are shareable resources: copying and sharing to many others do not diminish the utility of the original to the sharer.
  • 4- Trust between members.

Conversely, lack of trust can destroy value. The main point by Stephen M. R. Covey in his new book “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything” is simple: when trust goes down, speed of work performance and transactions goes down, and business costs go up. Trust and goodwill are among the most important intangible assets for good business. Again, using the KM framework introduced earlier in this blog series:

Covey's speed of trust

When an organization is plagued by rivalry and factionalism, its performance suffers. Bad relationships and distrust can destroy value. Trust underpins relationship capital, one of the three components of intellectual capital of an organization.

When a nation is at war with itself: in Congo, Georgia, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka and many other places, millions and billions of dollars are diverted away from production to maintain armed forces. GNP suffers. This is negative social capital. No wonder that Francis Fukuyama in his book “Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity” observed that developed economies are also societies characterized by high social trust.

At worst, when relationships between militarily powerful nations deteriorate, and a regional or global nuclear war threatens Planet Earth, we risk the destruction of all other forms of capital, natural and man-made, that have grown or been built over our home planet over the last centuries. Trust and goodwill are among the most important intangible assets for world peace.

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