KM is the Forest, Enterprise Blogs are the Path
When I saw Michael Koenig's article in KM World, KM: the forest for all the trees, I thought this might be another story about how ECM can save paper. No, Koenig explains that KM is far from a fad, and took a stab at defining knowledge management.
Previous management fads (as measured by the number of articles in the business literature on the topic) showed a consistent pattern of boom and bust over a roughly 10-year cycle, with four or five years of explosive logarithmic growth, followed by an only slightly longer period of almost equally dramatic decline.
KM by contrast, takes off slowly, launches with the tech bubble in 1999, settles a bit, and grows steadily between 2000 and 2005 with a spike in 2002.
Many people try to grapple with the KM Term. Kaye Vivian wrote about a need for a KM definition and a unifying theory.
Koenig claims by metaphor that "KM is the name for the forest of information, content, knowledge and IT management."
Running with the metaphor, I will argue that Blogs are one of forest's most essential knowledge assets: they are the path.
When blogs became popular in 2002, they were thought by many to be just another of the fad's Koenig refers to. David Sifry's latest State of the Blogosphere shows the opposite trend, sustained growth for blogs on the public web:
We can't measure the growth of enterprise blogs deployed behind the firewall (see 13 June 2005 | Dark Blogs Case Study #1 - A European Pharmaceutical Group) as discreetly, but its fair to say that a similar pattern is developing, albeit at lower total numbers. Enterprise Blogs play a key role in KM because they hold the narrative that shows a path through the information in the metaphorical forest. Blogs (and the bloggers that fill them) tend to provide links to key reference information in their narrative over time.
John Monroe's coverage of FCW's Knowledge Management conference last month included a story titled Knowledge Lies in Narrative. In it, Munroe details a session led by Gary Klein, chief scientist at Klein Associates.
A narrative approach makes it much easier to delve into experts' thought processes, which is where real knowledge is to be found, Klein said.
It is usually easier to teach people by developing a series of vignettes that bring that tacit knowledge to life for others. That is the point of knowledge management. “It is not enough to elicit information,” Klein said. “You have to be able to represent it so other people can use it."
Klein is referring to exactly the sort of narrative that weblogs to deliver so well.
By making comments on and linking between trees (knowledge assets stored in any ECM, DM, KM, Collaborative Workspace or other information system), Blogs show the knowledge traveler what's important (amongst a list of disconnected content and similarly ranked search results) and how to find the way through a dense and otherwise difficult to navigate (and understand) forest. The information in the blogs themselves may conisist of pointers to knowledge content, or may be 'the content' itself. So new trees may grow out of the communication conveyed over time in the enterprise blogs.