Knowledge Management in Academia LO20416

Jonathan Mozenter (
Sat, 16 Jan 1999 03:06:01 -0500

Replying to LO20324 --

>I contend that what we need most in knowledge management is "recipes." [I
>don't mean that everything is reducible to step-by-step instructions, I'm
>just using the language of the example. I mean we need process, or
>dynamic, descriptions.]]

I forget if I ever introduced myself on this list, but I'm an OD
consultant who just finished my MBA-OB at Boston University part-time.
One of my final classes was called Managing in Knowledge Economy which was
essentially all about Knowledge Management (KM).

The class was taught by Lloyd Baird (OB) who works with N.Venkatraman (IS)
and John Henderson (IS) in BU's Systems Research Center. They will be
coming out with a book soon that have some of the 'recipes or process'
that you speak of. It was fascinating class as they used Just in Time
Teaching (i.e. as they developed a new concept they taught to us\tested it
out in class.)

Here are some of the important things you need to think about when
developing a KM system:

Understand the many different types of KM systems. They wrote one article
identifying at least 9 different types of KM systems. Each are distinct
having different purposes, involving different audiences, and needing
different types of implementation

Understand your company's culture - how do employees learn, would they
accept a KM system, what is important to them, what is their level of
computer use, how is information already shared, what types of communities
of practice currently exist, what is their resistance to change ... etc.

Understand your company strategies - what are the most important aspects,
what types of information is needed, who has this information, what
information is needed in the future... etc.

Use a cross functional teams to design a system that keeps in mind the
above mentioned. Include among others SR. staff, IS, HR/OD, Line
managers, users, and sometimes even customers, suppliers, and partners.

Much of what happens next greatly depends on what type of system you
install. Some of they key questions for all types include:

Do you need to validate data? If so how are you going to the validate
How are you going to collect data?
How are you going to get people to use it (usually one of the most
important/difficult questions to solve)? (keep in mind your reward
systems and culture)
Who does this information go to? Not go to?
What types of feedback loops are you going to into place?
How are you going to measure your system to know if it is working?
How are you going to make sure confidential info doesn't get leaked?
What format will you use to disseminate the data?
Who will support this (be in charge, own it...etc.)?
How are you going to motivate these people?
When will you retire information if ever?

KM is potentially a very powerful concept, but making it work is very
complicated. There is no simple 'recipe' to making it work, but answering
these and other questions will point you in the right direction. I
recommend reading these Prof.'s book when it comes out. Hope that helps!


Jonathan Mozenter
Organizational Development Consultant
Co-Director of Greater Boston OD Network Learning Group

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