The year 2007 ended with a very interesting take on KM 2.0 by one of my former correspondents, Dave Pollard (See for example 1, 2, 3). Dave, who is given to emphasizing the social networking aspects of things provides this definition of KM:
“In a recent post where I waxed rhapsodic about how the best approach to everything could be reduced to three magic words (love, conversation, community), I presented this one-sentence summary of how this might apply to knowledge management (KM):
“KM is simply the art enabling trusted, context-rich conversations among the appropriate members of communities about things these communities are passionate about.
“In another recent post I laid out how the work of information professionals is now being done in (what I consider) leading organizations, around five key types of deliverables: awareness products, research products, guidance products, self-assessment and connectivity tools, and facilitated events.
“At the request of several readers, I’ve pulled this all together in the table above into a framework for what some have called KM 2.0, but which I prefer to call KM 0.0, because it’s getting back to the roots of why and how people share what they know. It could also be called PKM — Personal Knowledge Management — because it’s about self-managed content and peer-to-peer connectivity.”
So in the above Dave, equates KM 2.0 with communities and enabling trusted, context-rich conversations within them and also equates it with Personal KM, self-managed content and peer-to-peer connectivity. Nowhere in this description do we see the words knowledge processing. Nowhere are knowledge outcomes talked about. And even though KM is mentioned we see that it is about enabling context-rich conversations in trusted but otherwise unstated ways. Frankly, this is the first time I’ve heard that KM is about making context-rich conversations possible. And while this is an interesting idea, I don’t think it’s very tightly coupled to such notions as enabling better problem formulation, or better knowledge claim formulation, or better individual and group learning, or better knowledge claim evaluation, it may have more to do with enhanced knowledge integration, but the trouble is we have no way of knowing whether the “context-rich, trusted conversation” is exchanging knowledge or just information.
In any event, on the basis of considerations like these, Dave characterizes two types of KM. The old kind, or KM 1.0, is described as being all about content and collection, and KM 0.0 (what others call KM 2.0), which is described as being all about context and connection. Content and collection is associated with: large centralized just-in-case content repositories of ‘submitted’ ‘reusable’ documents with standardized taxonomy and search tools; large complicated centrally-managed intranets for ‘publishing’ and ‘browsing’ content; main information flows are top-down instruction (policies, directories), bottom-up submission; communities of practice – centrally established and managed, content-focused; “best practices’ (stripped down); public websites (boundaries established by firewall); licensed databases purchased from outside info-professionals (disintermediation); e-mail; and what the company wants you to know: press releases, sales material.
Context and connection is associated with: personal content management tools – everyone manages their own content, just-in-time, harvestable; RSS-publishable and subscribable personal web pages, blogs and small-group-created wikis; main information flows are what matters to each person, peer-to-peer; communities of passion – self-managed and ad hoc, conversation-focused; stories (detailed, context-rich); visualizations; everything inside is open and shared outside unless it’s illegal to do so (community of the whole world); high-value, high-meaning RSS-subscribable content produced by internal info-professionals (reintermediation): awareness alerts (what’s new?), research (what does it mean), guidance (what should we do about it?); Instant Messaging, virtual meeting tools (desktop video, other simple ubiquitous real-time tools), organization and facilitation of real & virtual community-self-initiated self-managed events, including Open Space hosting and facilitation, people-finding and community-creating tools; and what the customer wants to know: multimedia interactive self-assessment tools.
So, again, Dave has given us two states of organizational systems which he calls KM 1.0 and KM 0.0 (or 2.0) and which he provides detailed specifications of in terms of the above properties. While the differences between these two states and the richness of his characterizations of both are certainly of great interest, I’m afraid that the connection of these two types to Knowledge Management, as an idea, is less than crystal clear from my point of view. This is not to say that KM efforts in the past have not used many of the elements identified by Dave in their interventions, such as, for example communities of practice or best practices databases, or content repositories, or even occasionally, large complicated centrally-managed intranets for ‘publishing’ and ‘browsing’ content, but those were not necessary characteristics of KM in past years, and such tools as e-mail, licensed databases purchased from outside, public web sites with firewalls, and press releases and sales materials have hardly ever been associated with KM as a distinguishing characteristic of this form of management or its effects. Furthermore, what is absent in Dave’s account of KM 1.0 is any characterization of its unifying ideas other than “content and collection;” and this neat phrase is hardly descriptive of the character of even first generation KM as an activity. In fact, it looks much more like a broad characterization of content processing than it does KM, and it fails to establish a coupling between a general notion of first generation KM, the “content and collection” meme and the specific attributes that Dave couples to the label KM 1.0.
This problem of specificity in the tie between a general characterization of KM, the general idea of the KM type being described, and the characteristics specified to describe the type, carries over to Dave’s treatment of KM 0.0. It’s central idea is described as context and connection, and the specific characteristics given by Dave match that idea very well, but the task of tying “context and connection” to the idea of KM itself is absent. In other words we are being asked to believe that KM 0.0 (or 2.0) is described in general terms by “context and connection” without any comparative analysis of this account of KM 2.0 compared to other alternatives. But what is there about “context and connection” that implies the kind of activity we can call KM 2.0 and what is this kind of activity like? And, alternatively, if context and connection is meant to characterize the facilities, structures, social networks, type of content, and tools implemented in or resulting from KM 2.0 interventions, then what is the relation of these characteristics to KM and to enhancing the knowledge processing targets of KM?
Questions like these are neither posed nor answered in Dave’s blog post. And therefore we are left with assertions that KM 1.0 and KM 2.0 are as described, with KM and knowledge processing being only vaguely recognizable in the profiles developed. Thus, KM 1.0 looks like content processing to me and KM 0.0 (or KM 2.0) looks like social network enablement and intensification. But neither one looks like a KM state to me, and neither one connects the state it describes to characteristic patterns of knowledge processing, so the connection of these two patterns to Knowledge Management, and to KM 2.0, particular is tenuous at best.
To Be Continued