Understanding 'The New Knowledge Management' LO30351

From: chris macrae (wcbn007@easynet.co.uk)
Date: 07/10/03

Replying to LO30342 --

[Host's Note: Chris originally had a longer subject line including the
question "is it really different in spirit from Japanese Learning
Organisation?" ..Rick]

I just wanted to check a few points raised by Mark McElroy's outstanding
reference to New Knowledge Management

1) I read you to say Nonaka's (Japanese) approach to KM is
"authoritarian in form. That is, knowledge is justified by an appeal to
the authority of management."

If so, I would also regard that as a huge defect. Where I am less clear is
: where does focus or organisational patterning of a system ultimately
come in if its system dynamic patterning of human relationships is not
stewarded from the top. I worked in Japan in the late 80s, and at least at
that time the role of the top in the culture and identity and deep purpose
of the organisation was true and very different in its implications and
duties that top roles in the West. One way in which the West has
difficulty in translating anything the Japanese say is contextual. At
least in those days it was true to say that any middle manager in Japan
would only get penalised if they failed in either of thee two things:
 -failing to bring on subordinates
 -failing to pass information on
Such opposite rules of play makes it hard to go on to translate any
extracts of Japanese management theory directly into a western context.
This is also in my view why West keeps on missing the full meaning of
other Nonaka concepts such as space.

2) My queries continue precisely because I do wish to see a KM of the kind
you state as follows:" In sum, then, The New KM is the first and only
school of KM theory and practice to deliberately embrace fallibilism. And
this, its unique epistemological basis - its antijustificationism -
arguably makes it the most compelling, most powerful brand of KM to emerge
thus far. For if human knowledge is truly fallible, the last thing we need
in business is an authoritarian approach to knowledge processing that
would have us carry on as though it weren't. What we need, instead, is a
philosophy of knowledge that allows us to continuously hold our ideas open
to criticism, regardless of where they come from, or the rank of their
proponents. This is the credo of The New KM."

When you say this is brand new to KM, we presumably accept its not brand
new to LO theory (indeed isn't this what double loop in LO has been
reminding us of 15 years or more?. If so, how is it KM began without this
fundamental tenet? I still haven't understood how KM originated with these
blindspots since so many of the founding fathers of Km seem to have been
well aware of such LO constructs)

3) Back in Japan - you say this: The issue, then, becomes the extent to
which an organization welcomes and encourages judgement or continuous
criticism of its policies, versus denying and discouraging them. Ouch! I
believe that the kind of KM theory and practice recommended by Nonaka
and Takeuchi falls into the latter category, and for that reason it is
dangerous and irresponsible. Again I just caution about context. I may
be wrong but my implicit translation of Japanese leadership identity is
 - There is a bond. The top of a Japanese organisation is expected to
behave as its chief learner; to listen to much younger people , to keep
questioning everyone's views through such down-up communications processes
as hoshin planning; because of this bond where people see that the top
person misunderstands something they are expected to raise it privately
not to let that person lose face by raising it publicly in front of the
whole organisation. In the best Japanese firms reverse mentoring and 360
degree learning were natural long before the west rediscovered them.

I love your structural dimensions reprinted below. Over and over, we
need learning and KM to know each other. In Europe I suspect networks
like this are doing courageous stuff
I would most strongly recommend the Kelleher/Cressey reference if people
here get to it

In Japan, I think they are not behind in quite the ways you imply because
they do not position or measure management in the errant way the west did
as manifest in the worst (ie living system destructive) non-transparencies
we've seen in corporate America and global western accounting (and all its
conflict ridden numbers reductionism)

Structural Dimensions
(Copyright C 2003 by Mark W. McElroy www.macroinnovation.com)

 - Ethodiversity - The degree of diversity in values and worldviews held
by members of an organization - impacts the range of perspectives and
experiences available to an organization as it seeks to detect problems
and opportunities, and to search for solutions to them.
 - Connectedness - The density or degree of connectivity between
individuals and groups in organizations - impacts the extent of
interactions between people and the velocity of information flow.
 - Community Formation - The extent to which an organization encourages
and supports the self-organized formation of learning-related groups or
'communities of learning, practice,' etc. - a pre-condition for group
learning (see below).
 - Individual Learning - The extent to which individuals are free to
pursue learning agendas of their own choosing - impacts rate and quality
of organizational innovation.
 - Group Learning - The extent to which groups or 'communities' are free
to pursue learning agendas of their own choosing - impacts rate and
quality of organizational innovation.
 - Knowledge Production - The extent to which formal and informal learning
at the level of authority structures (e.g., management and governance) are
open to inspection (transparency) by, and participation (inclusiveness)
from, employees and other stakeholders - impacts rate and quality of
organizational innovation.
 - Knowledge Sharing - The extent to which individual and organizational
knowledge is accessible to stakeholders who may want or need it, as well
as the quality of knowledge diffusion in the organization - impacts
business-level knowledge use and performance, and the capacity of
stakeholders to recognize and detect problems.
 - Knowledge Entitlement - The extent to which title to, and benefits
from, intellectual property and other forms of intellectual capital are
shared with employees and other stakeholders who contribute to their
 - impacts problem solving and innovation behaviors by tapping into
intrinsic motivation at the level of individuals and groups.

>Having been asked so often to provide an explanation of what makes 'The
>New Knowledge Management' so new and different from existing or old
>conceptions of the subject, I finally sat down and wrote a paper that
>describes the idea in detail. For those of you interested in 'serious
>KM,' I am pleased to make this paper available to you on my website at
>the following URL:


"chris macrae" <wcbn007@easynet.co.uk>

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