Three types of KM

In an organizational knowledge sharing framework, I put together several ideas to show how knowledge could be shared and codified. As I explain this to others I realize that these ideas go against many established assumptions about knowledge in organizations. For example, knowledge management is not a software system, but really three processes that are conducted in parallel and support each other; namely Big KM, Little KM and PKM [Patti Anklam].

Big KM is needed in larger organizations that have a lot of outputs, events and processes to keep track of. For instance, a company like P&G has a lot of history and many brands that each have a story. Just keeping track of all these products is a significant effort. This requires enterprise-wide systems. Big KM also provides the institutional knowledge that is needed to have common understanding amongst those working in the organization. It consists of the big, important stories.

Little KM helps groups make decisions given the knowledge they have at the time, but learning from each subsequent decision. By creating “safe-fail” experiments, they can try out new ways of working, with minimal risk. Little KM practices ensure that much of what is learned is shared and as much codified as possible. These feed into Big KM, institutional knowledge.

Little KMPKM is what individuals practice in order to fully participate in Little KM. I would say that PKM is the most important to keep organizational learning alive. Individuals who are actively engaged in their sense-making will likely be more participative in Little KM, and their sharing (as in Seek-Sense-Share) will contribute to Big KM. Imagine an organization where everyone blogs professionally. It would be very easy for an organizational curator to weave together the narrative threads from all employees, thus feeding into a Big KM system.

My experience is that Big KM is ‘relatively’ easy, but it does not guarantee knowledge-sharing. On the other hand, PKM is an individual skill that can be developed with practice. It benefits both the individual and the organization. Little KM, where teams share their learning and note their failures as well as success, is the most difficult. In large organizations, who probably have a Big KM system, I would focus next on PKM. Then, once sufficient people have PKM skills, Little KM (knowledge-in-action) can be put into practice. In the long run, it takes all three to ensure good institutional memory as well as a culture of learning.

knowledge organizational asset

2 Responses to “Three types of KM”

  1. Eric Lebel

    Very simple and inspiring typology of KM. I will try to map that to my orgnization and next KM strategy. Thanks for sharing.

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