KM in a wiki world

April 2, 2008 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Tyler having a quick lie-downI used to participate in KM conferences. Once you’re on the conference circuit, it’s rather addictive, especially if, like me, you enjoy public speaking and an audience. But about two years ago, I decided to be more selective about the conferences I spoke at or the workshops I would run. This was not because I didn’t want to share what I know or learn from others. Nope, it was about not wanting to be seen as one of the “usual suspects”. You know, those dudes you see on conference brochure after conference brochure. Probably recycling the same PowerPoint presentation from one conference to the next or retelling the same old war stories. I suspected I was falling into that trap. So I started to decline conference invitations and recommended other people instead.

This may not have been too smart a strategy because in late 2005 I was appointed Chair of Standards Australia KM Committee following my editing of the Australian KM Standard. As Chair, I guess I should be out and about, pressing the flesh so to speak. I’ve done that at limited events, but am conscious of the need to have something new, something fresh to say.

So last week, I did appear in Hong Kong for KM in a Wiki-World. I happened to be in Hong Kong anyway for teaching purposes but this conference looked to me to be different. It was a one-day conference with the following line-up of speakers: Dave Snowden, a glittering gem in the KM world. Robert Neely – who gave one of the most refreshing conference talks I’ve seen in a long while. All about e-discovery. Me – going on about social media – more to follow in this post. Jack Chong from Ericsson and finally, but by no means least, Leif Edvinsson. This was the first time I’d met Leif or seen him in action. In a separate post, I’ll share with you what I learnt from Leif’s thoughtful presentation on Signals from the Future.

But what did I talk about at this conference? Well, I predicted to myself (accurately, thank goodness) that Dave would set the scene and outline Web 2.0 and how collaborative tools enhance KM efforts (if not rescuing KM!). Check out Dave’s blog for his slide set.

So I concentrated on the two areas that interest me most: law and identity. You’ll be pleased to know I refrained from any ranting about privacy issues in cyberspace. Here’s a run down of what I covered:

  • the power of social media is in connectivity and contactability
  • knowledge is emergent. You can change the knowledge flow so that it is meaningful and contextual. For example, I recently kicked 10 blogs off my RSS feeds because I found them no longer stimulating or I didn’t like the direction the blogger was going in. And I replaced those 10 with 3 new ones. So I changed my connections based on what is useful to me.
  • Social media can help to build familiarity and trust. It can’t help you to build a “knowledge-sharing culture” (what the heck is that anyway?) but it can strengthen the weak ties, construct new pathways and connections.
  • With social media, we don’t have to indulge in that tacit and explicit knowledge nonsense.
  • With the growth of social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr and so on, I talked about individuality in public space. How we are building Brand Me through blogs for example. Through building a public identity we can showcase our expertise, attract an employer, find people with similar interests.
  • I confessed I am obsessed with Flickr ☺
  • Social media challenges the notion of knowledge as static.
  • I dealt with trust. How social media helps to create a non-structured environment and you learn to trust people based on what they recommend for example.
  • I talked about the tyranny of the IT expert in the sense that control and knowledge of collaborative tools lies now with you and me. We can set up a blog in no time at all. We can wiki away. We don’t need IT departments telling us what wiki or blogging software we should have. IT should let go control and recommend collaborative tools. But IT people are still shrouded in mysticism in some organisations. I did say that if I could I’d get rid of IT departments – meaning centralised policemen – not IT people per se.
  • I looked at the major barriers to social media.
  • I covered some case studies: museums, lawyers and law firms who are actively and successfully engaging with Facebook and blogs.
  • I looked at why organizations should be rethinking their stance on Facebook if they are banning it
  • The 3Cs of blogging – consistency, comfort and capability.
  • Social bookmarking as a form of sense-making
  • I briefly covered Citizen Journalism
  • Then I ended with a brief look at the MySpace Mayor – what can happen to you if you share too much about yourself on a social networking site.

As usual, I covered too much in 45 mins! But I rediscovered my enthusiasm for speaking at conferences and found this forum to be the best I’ve attended in years. And I think that was because of the unusual angles covered, particularly in Leif’s session – but more about that in the next few days.

Next up, New Zealand for the 6th Annual Information Management Summit. I’m giving an “international address” – considering I’m a New Zealander, not sure how I’m “international”! But hey, I’m also running a champagne roundtable – now THAT sounds good to me.

UPDATE: 3/4/08 seems ThinkingShift good friend, Patrick Lambe, is having a tussle with a dude who likens KM to a “snake oil solution” with snake oil salesmen. Having been one of the speakers at the conference in question, I sincerely hope this guy isn’t referring to me! A quick glance at this guy’s original post, tells me he isn’t in the KM profession and so perhaps doesn’t really understand the issues we KM’ers grapple with. I think Patrick’s done a sterling job in defending KM so I have nothing to add except, Go Patrick!


Entry filed under: Conferences, Knowledge Management.

No April fool Hong Kong sojourn

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike Poole  |  April 8, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Kim, you were correct in your update – I’m not a knowledge management professional, and I wasn’t trying to attack any particular person at the conference. Although I still have many reservations about the concept of knowledge actually being manageable, Patrick Lambe certainly gave me a great deal of food for thought, including pointers for further reading, some of which I’ve since incorporated into other posts on my site.

    With reference to your observation about IT departments in organisations, I thoroughly concur. As a graduate student at the ANU in Canberra a decade ago it seemed that the faculty IT support was more about IT withdrawal. However, they can be great enablers, as is the much smaller department of one in the company I now work for, who has established blogs for all the (surprisingly non-Web 2.0) corporate trainers and pushed them to think more about the possibilities of e-learning.

    But that’s just an aside. I’m currently preparing a post on blogging and casual (non-institutional) learning and your post has given me a little more food for thought. So even if I have reservations about knowledge management, its professionals have certainly helped my own learning process!


  • 2. thinkingshift  |  April 9, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Hi there Mike

    Great to hear from you. I have a recurring joke – IT Help Desk I usually refer to as Desk, because there ‘aint no help! but your own story surprised me – IT people encouraging the uptake of blogs for e-learning purposes! I will be fast onto your blog to read more about this great pack of IT people.

    I am sure that Patrick armed you with lots of things to read and think about in KM. It is not an easy discipline or profession (take your pick as to which) to be in. And the debate around KM continues largely because it is still in its early days. My own view is that the term KM and the fracas that often surrounds it will disappear as we ultimately realise that “knowledge” is what we work with every single day; it’s just the way we work.

    Look forward to your upcoming posts.


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