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KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management: Part Three, More Skepticism and Okimoto’s Conceptualization

August 6th, 2008 · No Comments


Until the late spring of 2007, discussion about KM 2.0 had raised a number of issues and themes including:

— KM 2.0 is KM which utilizes Web/Enterprise 2.0 tools to enable greater connectivity and self organization in one’s enterprise;

— Before the introduction of Web/Enterprise 2.0 tools KM had been a command-and-control-oriented approach, but KM 2.0 introduces an entirely new orientation focusing on self-organization and community;

— KM 2.0 social media tools are used in the service of creating an ecology that improves connectivity, resulting in building relationships and trust, resulting in better communications and knowledge sharing;

— Is KM 2.0 the use of the new social media tools in an enterprise? That is, is KM 2.0 equivalent to Enterprise 2.0? Or is KM 2.0 a more broadly social activity that simply uses the new tools as an instrument?

During the remainder of 2007, the discussion of these themes continued. A good example is provided by Paula Thornton in a post entitled “Knowledge Doesn’t Want to Be Managed:”

In deference to Bill Ives’ recent post, 2.0 and KM are not in the same galaxy. The fundamental potential of 2.0 is emergent (referred to in the discussion at the Web 2.0 Expo in April). Knowledge Management is and has always been a misnomer: knowledge cannot be managed.”

That is, KM 2.0 is nonsense, because KM is about control of knowledge which is nonsense; while 2.0 is about enhancing “Your ability to think and act,” and also about “emergent” knowledge.

In September of 2007, Jennifer Okimoto, of IBM Global Services, made public a slide deck entitled “Industry Trends: the evolution of knowledge management (KM 1.0 vs. KM 2.0). The slide deck makes the far from innovative point that KM is about creating the perfect balance among people, process, and technology. It proceeds to make the more important point that traditional, KM 1.0, and KM 2.0 methods co-exist since “as new sources and methods to share knowledge appear, none of the old disappear.” Jennifer Okimoto then presents IBM’s view of the evolution of KM and collaboration in a two column, 11 row table, full of dichotomies. The left column is labeled “KM and Collaboration in the past,” and the right “KM and Collaboration moving forward.” Here are the 11 dichotomies:

1) “KM and collaboration is extra work” vs. “Collaborative work is what work is”

2) “KM and collaboration are sets of tools” vs. “Collaboration is co-authoring the outcome”

3) “I work by myself” vs. “I am immersed in the conversation of the workplace”

4) “People directories provide contact information” vs. “Dynamic profiles reflect what I do, with whom, and how well I do it”

5) “Work happens in unannounced groups” vs. “Work happens publicly where everyone participates”

6) “Content is protected” vs. “Content is fluid and is developed through participation”

7) “Searches for content and experts are unrelated” vs. “Experts lead to content, content leads to experts”

8) “My value to the company is based on my deliverables” vs. “I am a professional whose value is based both on my deliverables and my reputation”

9) “Customers are interesting” vs. “I depend on customers for feedback”

10) “The online experience is a Conversation with text and data” vs. “Collaborative work and Conversation with data are equally important”

11) “Targets increased productivity” vs. “Provides a platform for innovation”

These dichotomies are all very interesting, but the question is do they describe reality or are they merely a “straw man,” even a myth about what the characteristics of KM and Collaboration were and what they will be moving forward. I’m afraid I come down on the side of myth, a mere story in the pejorative sense, a consultant’s device used to brief and persuade prospective clients rather than an attempt to develop a serious characterization of what KM has been like in the past, and what it will be like moving forward. Thus, nearly every one of the left side of these dichotomies either has little to with KM or alternatively describes KM inaccurately. That is, the left side of dichotomies 3-11 have nothing directly to do with KM prior to September of 2007 in the sense they are part of any formal view of KM that is current in the KM literature. Also, KM has not been viewed as a “tool” by a majority of KM practitioners, for at least a decade, and as far as I know collaboration has never been viewed as a tool in KM, but as a very important social activity.

It is true that KM has been perceived as “extra work,” but this perception is related to a view of what KM is, that is highly questionable. That is, KM, viewed as an activity aimed at enhancing knowledge processing is always extra work, and remains extra work even if web 2.0 tools are provided through a KM intervention, however, knowledge processing is not necessarily extra work. It is what people do when they have to solve problems. It should be part of their daily work, and certainly can be, and often is embedded in it. Collaboration is also often involved in problem solving, and when it is, it is not extra work, but, it too, is part of problem solving.

In any event, even those who confuse KM and knowledge processing and use the two terms interchangeably have been attempting to perform KM in such a way that knowledge processing is embedded in work. That is the whole idea in back of “just-in-time” KM, which pre-dates “KM 2.0” by at least 5 years.

When we look at the right-hand side of the 11 dichotomies we, again encounter the question of the relationship of KM to dichotomies 3-10. That is, perhaps these do describe KM 2.0, but why should we believe that? What is the connection between some explicit notion of KM and the right-hand side of dichotomies 3-10. To be even more specific, anyone can say they are characterizing KM going forward and then specify some list of characteristics that is supposed to describe KM 2.0, but why and how are these characteristics related to the underlying idea of KM. I’m afraid that’s not clear in the slide set. In fact, there is no underlying idea of KM expressed in the slide set, which is why it is so hard to understand what either the left or right-hand sides of these dichotomies have to do with KM.

Nor is the relationship of the right-hand side of dichotomies one and two to KM clear. Both dichotomies refer explicitly to collaboration, but, at least on the right-hand side, not to KM. So what is the significance of this? Is Jennifer Okimoto saying that KM 2.0 is really “collaboration?” If so, this is clearly just a misuse of language.

Finally, dichotomy 11 is posed as: “Targets increased productivity” vs. “Provides a platform for innovation.” Presumably this is to make the claim that KM used to be about increasing productivity, but going forward will be about providing a platform for innovation. However, there was never universal agreement that KM was about increasing productivity, and the idea that one of the primary purposes of KM is to enhance innovation has been mentioned in KM from the beginning, and had gained wide recognition by the year 2000.

A final slide in the presentation is about “driving critical people connections.” and identifies:

— “Mobilizing and mining the collective brain” (Extended enterprise, structured)

— “Global water cooler” (Extended enterprise, unstructured)

— “Helping hand in collaboration,” (Group, structured) and — “Targeted yet free flowing collaboration” (Group, unstructured)

While this is perhaps a useful typology, it doesn’t clearly distinguish KM 1.0 from KM 2.0, from my point of view, though clearly it does if one were to assume the validity of the characterizations of KM 1.0 and 2.0 provided earlier.

In sum, Jennifer Okimoto’s slides provide a perspective on the KM 1.0/2.0 issue that goes far beyond the previous discussions of the subject, and for the reasons I’ve given above is a bridge much too far, because it is based on highly questionable characterizations of both conjectured states of KM. In Part Four, I’ll continue my discussion of views of KM 2.0 developed in 2007

Tags: Complexity · KM 2.0 · KM Software Tools · Knowledge Integration · Knowledge Making · Knowledge Management