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Knowledge Management With Blogs

"The ABCs of Knowledge Management" from CIO by Megan Santosus and Jon Surmacz. "...intellectual and knowledge-based assets fall into one of two categories: explicit or tacit. Included among the former are assets such as patents, trademarks, business plans, marketing research and customer lists. As a general rule of thumb, explicit knowledge consists of anything that can be documented, archived and codified, often with the help of IT. Much harder to grasp is the concept of tacit knowledge, or the know-how contained in people's heads. The challenge inherent with tacit knowledge is figuring out how to recognize, generate, share and manage it. While IT in the form of e-mail, groupware, instant messaging and related technologies can help facilitate the dissemination of tacit knowledge, identifying tacit knowledge in the first place is a major hurdle for most organizations...."

" effective KM program should help a company do one or more of the following:

· Foster innovation by encouraging the free flow of ideas
· Improve customer service by streamlining response time
· Boost revenues by getting products and services to market faster
· Enhance employee retention rates by recognizing the value of employees' knowledge and rewarding them for it
· Streamline operations and reduce costs by eliminating redundant or unnecessary processes"

We get too wrapped around the axle with explicit and tacit knowledge. With explicit knowledge, "patents, trademarks, business plans, marketing research and customer lists" a person or group has to find, gather and share information - tacit knowledge- before any explicit knowledge can be recorded or archived. We need to think of what we are trying to accomplish and then use it as a starting point to realize the benefits of KM. Inherent in all KM systems is the idea of classification or taxonomies which are typically set up for explicit knowledge. Every person or group in a business has their own respective responsibilities along with different ways of expressing them. Limiting people to a fixed definition of things as in explicit knowledge loses the rich context of what people are really thinking and doing every day at work. So much information is lost in the daily exchange of email, IM, phone calls, web page references, etc, that it is no wonder we miss out on the benefits of knowledge management.

All knowledge is dynamic, and it is everywhere, both inside and outside the business; to think otherwise is asking for trouble in a global marketplace. Having worked on or peripherally been involved with several open source software projects, I can say that my experience leaves me scratching my head and wondering why businesses are so slow to catch on to what really works. Check out Source Forge, home to over 50k of open source software projects for examples as well as Doc Searls post on "Getting Flat, Part 1". It is about Tom Friedman's new book "It's A Flat World, After All" and Mr. Searls deals with the subject of collaboration on open source projects. Using loosely coupled activity maps or work flows tied in with blogs, forums, chat, etc., helps everyone coordinate activities and move forward. Read "Distributed KM - Improving Knowledge Workers' Productivity and Organisational Knowledge Sharing with Weblog-based Personal Publishing" from Martin Röll. A paper presented to BlogTalk 2.0, "The European Conference on Weblogs", Vienna, July 5th and 6th 2004.

Explicit knowledge is fixed knowledge because they use imposed words in taxonomies to describe it. Tacit knowledge on the other hand is personal and free flowing. How do we describe a half-baked idea? How do we give meaning to new concepts and ideas in a system that has no way of knowing what we are describing? How do I describe a red chair when all I have to choose from is black or white?

We start by having each employee journal - blog - their work related experiences - think of it as a gigantic learning and development platform.. As they describe their experiences, they can use a folksonomy - tags - made up of their own expressions; over time the idea can take shape. Using a formal taxonomy for explicit, fixed things makes it easy to find and share information while a folksonomy makes it easier to describe the unknown and fuzzy stuff as well as discover new ideas. Since the blogs are published internally for everyone to see, participation becomes altruistic.