Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sharing What Works

CompanyCommand is one of the U.S. Army's communities of practice. It is a space for commanders of companies (150 men) share and discuss tough issues of command.

The Canadian Forces has its own unit that focuses on lessons learned.

The U.S. Army may not be the first place where you would think to look for communities of practice or rapid information sharing websites. But the reality is that learning fast from what worked and didn't work is a critical skill set in today's army.

So there are strong reasons to pay attention to what the U.S. Army is doing and learning about knowledge management and fast learning. Here are some deep articles that get to the variety, processes and tools of knowledge sharing that the U.S Army is finding useful. Nancy Dixon (author of Common Knowledge) has been working with the US Army on the process side of its knowledge sharing and knowledge management. In her blog, "Conversation Matters", she has been posting some enlightening articles about her experiences in guiding KM in the U.S Army:
  1. Company Command: A Professional Community That Works
  2. If the Army Can Put Its Doctrine up on a Wiki, You've Got No Excuse
  3. A Wiki for Generals
  4. Do We Really Need So Many Kinds of Social Media?
The last article is especially enlightening in describing the processes and tools that a large organization legitimately needs to share policy, business processes, mentor, collaborate, innovate, challenge existing practice. Knowledge sharing does not happen in one space or with one tool. There are legitimate reasons for diversity and a variety of tools.

There is a Canadian connection to the U.S. Army's CoPs. Tomoye Community Software is a long-time software company supporting communities of practice based in Ottawa, Canada. Tomoye has provided the software to some of the key communities that Nancy Dixon talks about. Here are some of Tomoye's links to their analysis of the US Army communities of practice:
  1. Company Command.
  2. Army Logistics Net LOGNet Case Study
It is no coincidence that Kent Greenes is now part of Tomoye's Strategic Advisors along with Nancy Dixon. Kent started his work in knowledge management by focusing on fast learning by project teams for better performance as CKO for British Petroleum. He has pioneered the concepts of Peer Assists and Learn Before, Learn During, Learn After.

Organizations need to see communities of practice, information repositories and social media tools in the wider context of what is important and necessary for the organization to share quickly in order to execute and innovate.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Conversation about Knowledge Sharing

Conversations can be entertaining or sometimes they are nothing to howl about. You be the judge!

Dr. Kirby Wright teaches a course in Knowledge Management as part of the Master of Arts in Communications and Technology at the University of Alberta. A team of his graduate students approached me for an interview as part of their project in the course. They have created a blog at Their blog is well worth a visit for a critical view (in the terms of a critique) of the state and future of knowledge management.

The interview is posted at Thanks to Carolyn Dearden for editing the interview down from 40 to 24 minutes. You get the nuggets without the sidetracks I can roam down sometimes.

So, if you are interested in my take on the state of KM, click on "KM Cafe chats with KM Expert Neil MacAlpine".

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

David Snowden's Seven Principles of Knowledge Management

Snowden posted an update to his three rules (heuristics) for knowledge management. He has expanded them into seven principles. They are good reminders of the principles of knowledge sharing. They provide a starting point to examine conventional wisdom on how humans learn and share knowledge. Since my experience in KM is that I forgot the essentials on a regular basis, I regularly remind myself to review them.

David's post, from Oct. 10, 2008 is a good place to begin.

His seven principles are:
  • In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.
  • Everything is fragmented.
  • Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success
  • The way we know things is not the way we report things.
You need to read David's posting to get the full value of these principles. Without a regular dialogue on these principles, I find I am bound to repeat my past failures.