Knowledge Champions Institute: The 'Human' Side of Knowledge Management and Knowledge Transfer
by Karol Sinats, British Columbia Ministry of Management Services
In mid-April of this year, I was privileged to attend SLA's KCI Institute in Washington D.C. for a 5 day workshop on knowledge management and knowledge transfer based on the work of Dr. Nancy Dixon, author of Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know. It was a 'transformational' experience.
On the evening prior to the start of the workshop sessions, the 16 participants, along with David Bender and Donna Scheeder from the SLA Executive, met with the workshop facilitators in a session introduced by Jeff de Cagna ("the learning guy" at SLA) and led by Seth Weaver Kahn, senior information officer at the World Bank. Through stories about his life, work, experiences and beliefs, Seth set the stage for each of us to share what threads- temporal, spiritual, philosophical - of our personal 'journey' had led us to this place on this evening. From this beginning of openness and sharing, the participants, from Venezuela to the Bahamas, from New York, Washington D.C. and various places in the US, from Quebec, Calgary and Victoria, began a learning dialogue that we would continue over the next days of the workshop.
What did I learn from this experience that I'd like to share? There was so much dynamic learning over the five days that it would be impossible to cover it all in a short article. However, what I distilled from this experience were some "touchstones" that now guide me in making my way through the mass of materials, courses, and literature on KM and knowledge transfer and in formulating a path of action in my own organization.
The Good News and the Better News...
The good news is that librarians already participate in many forms of knowledge management in our work with clients; the better news is that there is room for us to enhance this function.
We can more systematically identify the current knowledge sharing that is already going on in our organizations: in cross-divisional teams, interest groups, 'get-togethers' of technical staff or managers. The next step is to understand how the groups work and where there may be opportunities to help them improve. This may be by encouraging more reflection by the group on what it is learning, by providing a supportive framework through tools or processes that might enhance the groups' work, by inserting some targeted research at just the right moment - whatever it takes.
Most importantly, we need to continuously enhance our own learning - through reading, attending courses, forming or joining a KM 'communitiy of practice'. However, our most important learning will come though doing: by starting with small efforts inside our own organizations, reflecting on what we learn as we proceed, applying our new knowledge the next time around, and sharing our experiences and knowledge with others.
Knowledge management is not an event, or a system, or a structure. It is an opportunity to foster the continuous growth of collective learning in an organization. We can help this process by being able to understand and identify existing or potential knowledge activities in our organizations, by learning how to most effectively apply the myriad of methods, tools, processes and methodologies available to us, and by highlighting the value of providing the space and time for employees to learn and to share their knowledge in ways that will enhance our organizations and benefit our co-workers.
Common Knowledge : How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know by Dr. Nancy Dixon. Harvard Business School Press, 2000
In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work by Don Cohen & Laurence Prusak, Harvard Business School Press, 2001
The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations by Stephen Denning, Butterworth, 2001
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