Humans, Organisation and Technology are considered the three cornerstones of KM.
Technology is the easy one. Design and implementation of information and communication infrastructures and tools. Progress in technology has lead to a development of KM, and although there was a period (or maybe there still is this period) when technology was taking over KM, being the central focus and alleged solution for all problems, technology is a very important aspect and enabler of KM. The main task here may be to identify the right tool to be implemented at the right time and the right place. Ideally, the used tools seamlessly integrate in the normal workflow of the people– which often asks for less than tech-lovers would like to see.
Organisation is more complicated. Because it does not deal with tools and technique, but with hierarchies, culture, environment, frameworks. In order to implement a successful KM strategy, there needs to be a knowledge- and learning friendly atmosphere, a social component smoothing the way for effective exchange. Creating such an environment often requires structural and mental changes within an organization, which in turn asks for open minds and participation- if not even courage to leave old paths and structures. An open minded leadership that not only supports those changes but also exemplifies them is essential for success. But even when this support is available- considering the many factors that form an organisations culture, one can truly ask if it is even possible as an “outsider” (which consultants normally are) to grasp them, to disassemble them and even more to change some of them. In any way, a close interaction with key members of the organisation and a serious effort include the organisation aspect in the KM strategy is inevitable.
And then there are humans. Humans, as the carriers of most of the relevant knowledge within an organization, are naturally the core of every KM strategy. But unlike a database, humans need to be willing to share this knowledge and to acquire new knowledge, they need to see a sense in what they are doing, a profit in participating. They need to be social and interactive to exchange knowledge. People share because they want to, people participate because they are motivated. Both, sharing and motivation can never be enforced. Therefore it is the key of every strategy to consider peoples needs, wishes, goals, constraints, feelings, fears, skills, social competencies, expectations. Sounds like one first has to do a master in psychology, but asking the right questions, listening well, taking people and their feelings seriously, and being transparent may already be a good start. And engaging people already in the design process and asking regularly for feedback further improves acceptance and motivation. Which is clearly inevitable for every KM strategy to be successful.
Picture taken from Course script “CAS Knowledge Management” by IKF, copyright A. Bellinger