All Life Is Problem Solving

Joe Firestone’s Blog on Knowledge and Knowledge Management

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Collaboration, KM 2.0, and Knowledge Processing

August 29th, 2008 · No Comments


According to many, KM 2.0 is introducing social media tools to improve connectivity, resulting in building relationships and trust, and then resulting in better communications and knowledge transfer. This is a simple theory. But it is at the heart of the claim that social computing tools will provide more success in knowledge sharing than previous KM efforts that did not use social computing have delivered. There is a missing link in this theory however, and it is the further assumption that increased connectivity will lead to increased collaboration which in turn will lead to increased knowledge sharing. This sounds neat enough, but I think it has a big hole running through it.


Collaboration refers to people working together to reach a common objective or goal. Enhancing collaborative processes focuses on locating and putting people together who may have a predisposition to collaborate. It also focuses on providing “spaces” enabling collaboration, or on providing means for creating collaborative processes, or on tracking collaborative processes and the results of collaboration, all of which are part of what KM 2.0 is about.


But enhancing collaborative processes is not itself about the purposes of collaboration or increased connectivity. It is neutral about those purposes. Collaboration enhancement prioritizes maintaining collaboration, not necessarily accomplishing the goals of collaboration. This can bring collaboration enhancement in conflict with knowledge processing, since knowledge processing’s primary purpose is to solve problems and integrate the solutions and not to maintain collaboration. In knowledge processing, collaboration is the means to individual, group, and organizational learning. It is an important means, and when combined with content processing and management, it provides powerful background conditions for successful knowledge processing. But in the end it is only a means to create knowledge and it is a means that must be harnessed to the various primary foci of knowledge processing, which I have listed on numerous occasions in previous writings.


In addition, Collaboration Management and KM are closely related in certain respects. Certainly, the activity categories of KM all involve collaboration and its management to one extent or another. But KM is much more than collaboration management, and its primary purpose is not to enhance it but to enhance knowledge processing. So, the implementation of Web 2.0 in the enterprise, while it may indeed be about increasing connectivity and collaboration, is not directly about knowledge processing and KM, and those who think that it is are making the same kind of error as previous writers in KM who have mistaken collaboration portals for knowledge portals and Collaboration Management for KM. It is another instance of loose thinking in KM – of an attempt to “fuzz up” the distinction between different categories in hopes that people will believe that one has found a new solution to a long standing problem – the problem of finding an IT tool or class of tools that defines the next generation of KM. Unfortunately, this is an insoluble problem, simply because KM generations are not determined by changes in IT tools, but by changes in KM conceptual paradigms.

Tags: KM 2.0 · KM Software Tools · Knowledge Management