Robin Neidorf Knowledge Management: It's About the Motives
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By Robin Neidorf


FreePint Director of Research, Robin Neidorf, discusses knowledge management: you've got all the tools and technologies so why aren't staff tapping into the corporate know-how? Understanding what motivates your workforce is essential to ensure that staff make full use of KM tools available to them.


Can knowledge be managed? There are certainly plenty of tools and methodologies that claim success in this area. There are, perhaps, just as many cynics who have come to believe that knowledge management (KM) is fundamentally contradictory: brainwaves are not computer terminals or pencils, after all. Ideas, facts and cognitive connections that are elusive until the 4 a.m. epiphany hardly feel "manageable". Anyone for whom insight on a tricky subject has ever felt tantalisingly out of reach can be forgiven for mistrusting knowledge management as a discipline.

What we're really trying to manage is, perhaps, not knowledge, but the application of knowledge: enabling the right know-how to emerge for workers at just the right time and place. For any tool or methodology to have a chance of success, it needs to take into account the needs of those workers, their motivations, and their capacity for absorbing ideas.

Many of the articles in this FreePint Report: Knowledge Management relate to workers and to what drives them. James Mullan often writes about getting over barriers to adoption and the importance of paying attention to the needs of your workers when considering the implementation of a collaborative tool. The best tools in the world - and the easiest - will not succeed if workers are not willing to use them.

Information overload is no friend to knowledge management. The more overloaded workers are, the less receptive they are to new ideas, even ones that have the potential to make their lives easier. At the same time, workers increasingly expect tools to be easy to use, convenient, and possess "Google-like simplicity", without always understanding the cost of said simplicity.

Yes, the tools matter. And the tools for knowledge management continue to get more effective. Several products included in this report cycle are directly designed to support awareness and maintain the moment of knowledge as it flows through the organisation (Attensa StreamServer and Linex). An add-on to the FT Online, MBA Newslines, integrates knowledge sharing around news content, embedded right in the publication.

SharePoint is trying to get smarter and more collaborative. Microsoft's purchase of Yammer opened the door for SharePoint to step up to the mark in creating collaborative intranet environments that today's workers want.

Without careful attention to workers and their motivations, KM will only be an enforced initiative, not an approach to work that infuses the way staff interact with information and with each other.

This is where insights from the world of distance learning form a critical bridge from KM concept to KM success: in distance learning, we know that interactions with content, peers and instructors are essential to success. Interaction is the key word here. A hot new tool to collect knowledge objects is insufficient. A collaborative tool connecting peers is insufficient. A topic expert is insufficient.

A change in behaviour requires strong motivation in order to succeed. The reward needs to be recognisable and valued by the person making the change. Consider KM through this lens, as you review the articles in this collection. Then consider if you really need another KM tool or perhaps instead some self-evaluation to create a learning plan.

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