When I read David Gurteen’s post on IM and KM (Information Management and Knowledge Management) it reminded me of a specific KM project I was involved with. In his post, David raises the issue of “what is IM and what is KM?” Where does the first stop and the other begin? This question has been discussed many times in the past. I think it is critical that we all agree with David when he says “Does it really matter? I don't think so.” Okay, with that out of the way, let’s have some fun with this question.
Understand and codify
The project I was involved with was a “lessons learned” repository. We were working with a very successful entertainment company, and they had a very well developed post-production discovery process to help them understand and codify lessons learned during the creation of a new show. They would assemble the directors, the producers, the actors, the writers, et al. and conduct extensive interviews, which were video-taped. Questions included “Where did key inspirations come from?,” “How did you overcome key technical hurdles?,” and so on. The motivation was to capture critical IP that would allow the company to make great shows in the future.
Share the Wealth
The KM project started with a key recognition: “We need the lessons learned to have wider impact on the creation of new shows.” The lessons, it turned out, had been tightly guarded secrets that only top management were able to access. As David Gurteen notes in his post, “Knowledge Management is practiced through activities that support better decision-making and innovation.” In this spirit, the entertainment company developed a KM strategy where lessons would infuse and inform every new show being produced, sharing the information with everyone responsible for creating new shows. The approach was very successful and the lessons, previously curated and physically captured on DVDs , were reorganized into bite sized sessions that could be accessed anywhere and by anyone. Better decisions were made, and more innovative shows produced. KM was achieved.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
So which activities are IM and which are KM? What is obvious to me is that without a lot of really good IM no KM would have been possible. So, are lessons knowledge? I think so. I think lessons are the codification of knowledge. They are the result of the synthesis of lots of information, combined with inspiration, experimentation, trial and error, etc. But what pops out is knowledge - not just more information.
Here’s a useful metaphor: E=MC2. In this equation, C is the speed of light (which in a vacuum travels at 671 million miles per hour). This is information. But the equation itself is knowledge. It took Albert Einstein many years of sweat, collaboration, and inspiration to come up with this simple but powerful equation. That to me is a KM process. Working with information to produce knowledge.
I think about it this way. If we put both the definition of C and E=MC2 into two time capsules and shot them into space the aliens who got C would say “not very impressive for folks who can build a rocket ship.” The aliens who got E=MC2 would say “hey, those dudes might have a clue!”
What do you think? Do you have examples of great ways to capture knowledge?