Top knowledge management principles

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 30, 2006
Filed in Insight

Denham Grey has suggested a list of top KM principles. I’ve only included the headings here and encourage you to head over to Denham’s site for his full explanations. The principles include:

  • Choose engagement over a repository
  • Respect and appreciate the key role of trust & context
  • Collect stories, use metaphor, ethnography and analogy to build inquiry
  • Cultivate executive support

There is a lot of wisdom in Denham’s post. In addition to the principles Denham describes what he believes is the essence of KM:

  • increasing awareness
  • fostering learning
  • supporting sense-making

I particularly like this statement:

Decisions, solutions, agility, competitive advantage and other benefits follow from sustaining a questioning environment, encouraging creative abrasion & experimentation, promoting deep dialog and allowing space for learning from mistakes.

The principles I would add to Denham’s list are:

  • Focus on practice and process before employing technology
  • Demonstrate value early and often—from the outset, collect success stories that demonstrate how the KM initiatives are enhancing responsiveness, increasing innovation, building capability and improving effectiveness.
  • Get people talking about KM which goes beyond sharing and searching documents.

On this last point, Jack Vinson has posted about how the US Government has come up with a definition of knowledge management, which reads:

Defines the set of capabilities that support the identification, gathering and transformation of documents, reports and other sources into meaningful information.

Wow, this is so limited and unhelpful I was gobsmacked when I read it. Any organisation following this definition of knowledge management will end up with a plethora of IT systems and databases with documents no one looks at. It only talks about how information can be translated to information (a point well made by Tom Short today on the SKMLeaders forum) and forgets about people.

Here is our attempt of how we think people can usefully talk about knowledge management. And here is a way to develop a knowledge strategy.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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