Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom Davenport rediscovers Knowledge Management in Enterprise 2.0

In 1998, Tom Davenport and Laurence (Larry) Prusak wrote Working Knowledge. It came to be recognized as the primer for knowledge management a decade ago.

So where do the new Web 2.0 tools, blogs, wikis, tagging, Facebook, fit together with organizational knowledge sharing? Tom Davenport had positioned himself as a skeptic until recently. And yes he blogs on Tom Davenport, the Next Big Thing.

Here's an interview with Tom Davenport: "Talking Social Media with Tom Davenport" (Nov. 12, 2008). Tom's views on knowledge management has always been influenced by his focus on process management (he is responsible for overall management of Babson's College's "Process Management Research Center" ). But he also smart enough to recognize and advocate that innovations also result from knowledge sharing that do not follow along the organization's regular business processes.

Here's Tom's original commentary on the subject from his own blog: "Enterprise 2.0, The New, New Knowledge Management" (Feb. 19, 2008).

In the discussion of "old wine in new bottles", we get back to a foundational heuristic in knowledge management voiced by Ron Weisenburger, ex-Chief Knowledge Officer, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development:

"Knowledge sharing, it's 80% about people and 20% about tools."

Davenport and Prusak repeat this rule of thumb midway down in this article, "The Knowledge: Tom Davenport". "If you’re spending more than a third of your efforts in KM on the technology, you’re probably neglecting the human side".

So the tools have gotten better. So knowledge sharing is easier to do.

For those trying to organize our companies for effectiveness and efficiency, the messiness of knowledge sharing that the new tools enable is a source of angst. Hence, Tom Davenport's question: "Is Web 2.0 Living on Thin Air" .

But if we listen to Tom Davenport, we recognize the power of the new tools to promote a new wave of knowledge sharing in our organizations. It is noteworthy that the blog interview, "Talking Social Media with Tom Davenport" came from a staff member's blog at SAS (the statistics software company) and was included in their e-mail newsletter.

So what do we do to coach and support our people to help them discover what know-how and really good information they need to share in our organizations?

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