Principles For Managing Of Knowledge Using ICTs

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  • 1. Principles to Guide the Managing of Knowledge Using Electronic Communication and Information-Sharing Tools By Nadejda Loumbeva December 2008 The identification of the principles outlined here originates in research done by the author at University College London, University of London, in 2002 as part of an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics. At the time, the principles were used to evaluate three geographically distributed Communities of Practice supported by electronic communication platforms at the then UK Countryside Agency, a British non-governmental organisation. Subsequently, they have also underlied work the author has done at other organizations, such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 1 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 2. INTRODUCTION: Information is not knowledge and knowledge is not just information. On the other hand, what can be conveyed through an electronic platform, an intranet, a database, a website, or anything of this kind, is just information. Information itself does not enable us to learn, unless we can place it in a context. Context comes when we interact with peers, communicating about what we do, why we do it, what stops us from or helps us doing it, what we want to do, what interests us. This is why, for information to make any sense to us, and help us learn, and become knowledge, we need the interaction with our networks and peers in order to put it in context. Putting information in context helps us learn about it. If we do this, then we know what we are talking about when we read through guidelines, suggestions, reports, news, and the like, that we usually find on websites, in databases, and other types of electronic communication platforms. Sounds easy? Apparently, though, a lot of organizations are struggling with putting in place communication and information-sharing tools and processes that enable and support geographically distributed knowledge sharing and learning among peers. Below are five principles guiding the use of communication and information-sharing tools for purposes of managing of knowledge. These may help to cast some light on the confusion you may be experiencing in your organisation with regards to why the knowledge management system that has been put in place does not quite help people share and learn. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 2 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 3. Rather than defining the sorts of tools to use for knowledge management and sharing purposes, these principles can help you figure out the following: to what extent electronic communication and information-sharing tools per se can help people to share knowledge and learn, and how the use of such tools can be approached if they are to be at all useful to the sharing of knowledge and learning among peers. The principles are: By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 3 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 4. 1. Knowledge is not information Information ‘does not make sense’ unless it becomes knowledge; Information exists outside of contexts, whereas knowledge exists within contexts (based on a shared theme, practice, purpose, etc.); Contexts within which knowledge exists are driven by people, not by technology; Information is no use unless it is enabling knowledge within shared contexts of some activity; Information becomes knowledge when people use this in the context of some shared interest; Knowledge is both explicit and tacit; information is only explicit. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 4 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 5. 2. Knowledge is both explicit and tacit For most things that people know, they know them in two ways: tacit and explicit; Sometimes, people know things only tacitly (i.e., riding a bike); People never know things just explicitly; Tacit knowledge can be called intuitive knowledge, procedural knowledge, or interest. It is inherently emotional knowledge which gives us clues about what matters to us and thus helps us make sense of things; Explicit knowledge is just information; Explicit knowledge can be transferred through the means of electronic communication and information-sharing tools; Tacit knowledge can not be transferred through the means of electronic communication and information-sharing tools. It can though be communicated or conveyed during some shared activity (a phone call, a conversation, a chat over coffee, a meeting, a workshop, a group project); We need explicit communication such as that can be transferred via online platforms in order to know what bits and pieces of information are out there for us to use for our learning; We need tacit knowledge to make sense of explicit information and communication we come across; Explicit knowledge thrives in media and online media; tacit knowledge is cultivated among peers. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 5 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 6. <-> 3. Individual Learning and Knowledge flow in and out Group Learning and Knowledge People learn by themselves (through reading a book, writing a paper, or other forms of self-study); People also learn in groups (through working on projects together, writing papers together, or other forms of group activity); Some people prefer individual to group learning, and vice-versa; Both individual and group learning are driven by some interaction among learners and those who are driving their learning; Group learning interactions tend to be much more synchronous than individual learning interactions; Individual learning draws upon tacit knowledge already learnt in the context of some shared activity; Group learning, via its collective process, cultivates the tacit knowledge of not individuals who are part of group, but also the group per se. There are things groups can know which individuals can not; Groups can know more than individuals would ever know and so can be more effective; Whereas individual learning can be optimized by merely supplying individuals with information, group learning can not; By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 6 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 7. Group learning can be optimized by merely enabling and supporting more exchanges and interactions among members of the group(s); In geographically-distributed groups, group learning can be optimized by supporting a combination of face-to-face and online exchanges; For an organization to make the most of group learning, it is not enough to merely encourage people to work in groups. Rather, group learning would need to imbue the design of the work, and overall business. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 7 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 8. ≠ 4. Learning and Knowledge are driven by incentives and will, not by rules and orders You can not tell people to know something. You can, however, create conditions for them to know things; Learning and Knowledge can not be planned, but rather enabled and allowed to emerge; The imposition of rules, of any kind and in any way, diminishes effectiveness as it pushes people away from their preferred working and learning mode; That learning and knowledge can not be planned, but enabled, has implications for the design of the work and overall business. The design of the work should be composed of systems, structures, and the like, that are inherently flexible; The will and incentive to learn, and know, mostly emerges in the context of exchanges and interactions among peers that are driven by shared interest and so inherently informal; The encouragement and cultivation of exchanges and interactions among peers, in terms of informal communities of practice, more formal knowledge networks, or else, can enable peers to identify and build on their interests as part of the work; By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 8 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 9. Enabling conditions (work systems and structures) that support working out of interest and not out of necessity in itself predisposes people to sharing knowledge and learning together. Such conditions would work best with people with the right values and motivation and so have implications for staff selection and development. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 9 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 10. 5. We can only know as and when we do Knowledge is not a possession but part of what we do, when we do it; We do not know what we know until we do something with it; Doing something with what we know enables an interplay of tacit and explicit knowledge. This helps us put into work what we already know and learn something new; Doing something with what we know is possible provided that there are cultures and structures that favour joint action, initiative-taking, and on- demand leadership, as well cross-cutting among different lines of work; The use of electronic communication and information-sharing tools as part of knowledge management initiatives should ensure these are integrated within bigger processes of sharing and doing together. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 10 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 11. CONCLUSION: Rather than defining the sorts of tools to use for knowledge management and sharing purposes, the above principles can help you figure out some of or more than the following: to what extent do electronic communication and information- sharing tools per se help people to share knowledge and learn? - Electronic communication and information-sharing tools can effectively support already existing processes of sharing of knowledge and learning. - The existence of electronic communication and information-sharing tools does not in itself in any way guarantee there is communication, sharing and learning per se. how can the use of such tools be approached if they are to be at all useful to the sharing of knowledge and learning among peers? - Electronic communication and information-sharing tools intended for the managing of knowledge among peers should be suitably integrated in processes that are, first and foremost, about knowledge sharing and learning together. By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 11 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch
  • 12. The above principles can also be used as baseline criteria for evaluating knowledge management and sharing initiatives using electronic communication and information-sharing tools in support of their process. Nadejda Loumbeva nloumbeva@iomba.ch December 2008 By Nadejda Loumbeva, MSc, MBA, CAS, Consultant and Coach on Learning and Knowledge Management. 12 Contact email: nloumbeva@iomba.ch