KM India 2010: Top 15 Takeaways

KM India 2010: Top 15 Takeaways


by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles


Thanks to the speakers and participants of the fifth annual KM India summit ( for sharing their KM experiences and insights! Here are some of the key lessons and tips that stand out for me; see you all at KM India 2011  :-)



1. Knowledge as one of many intangibles


While much discussion in KM obviously centres around tacit and implicit knowledge, Verna Allee raised the level of discourse to higher planes such as value networks, reputation, relationships and brands. She pointed the audience to a number of useful online resources, eg. Verna showcased numerous examples of such value network analysis, eg. regional innovation (= R&D + community building + market validation + commercialisation);  modelling customer service ticket escalation and resolution; and corporate initiatives at Boeing, Kimberly Clark, Mayo Clinic and Intel.


2. Knowledge theories, knowledge longevity in organisations


CEOs need theoretical frameworks more than academics do; CEOs are starved of meaningful theory, observed Anil Menon of Cisco. He identified three kinds of knowledge: conceptual/framework, symbolic and instrumental. However, knowledge can also have a finite shelf life and impact. For instance, IBM went from profitable to bankrupt in one year; Digital went from being most admired to becoming an acquisition target within a few years.


3. Agility and Resilience: The Knowledge Advantage


KM should focus not just on best practices and scenarios but also on building organisational agility and resilience, which needs renewal and re-creation as well as sound socio-technical systems which go beyond mere replication of social media sites like Facebook on corporate Intranets. “Adaptive work environments” help improve innovation, efficiency and customer intimacy, observed Dinesh Tantri of Thoughtworks.


4. KM Balance I: A Way of Life v/s A Set of Measures


A terrific debate revolved around the value and limits of KM metrics. Some argued that excessive measurement can be “overkill,” yet others justified it from a CFO point of view. The challenge in KM metrics, however, is proving causality rather than just correlation, cautioned JK Suresh of Infosys. Cognizant’s measures of KM success include engaged associates, knowledge enablement, continuous improvement and innovation. KM’s contribution has been in changing people’s mindsets and expectations when they come to work. “KM has helped us move beyond a training perspective to a learning perspective,” said Allee. KM has helped create a sense of one-ness in huge organisations such as TCS, even for employees who have just joined the company. Ved Prakash of Wipro presented comprehensive dashboards of metrics based on the balanced scorecard, across different business units: activity measures, outcome measures; effectiveness surveys; and correlation studies. Benefits of KM at Wipro have included operational effectiveness, productivity improvement, accelerated innovation cycle, and higher employee motivation. Ravi Uppal of L&T Power also said KM has helped improve their productivity.


5. KM Balance II: Big Buckets v/s Decentralised Knowledge


It is tempting for organisations to follow the “big bucket” model and lump all knowledge assets in one repository, when often the decentralised distribution and “router based” location model may be more efficient and intuitive. “We are now in the era of Everything 2.0. Our organisation dos not have a hierarchy but a wirearchy,” observed S. Sivaguru of HCL.


6. Social Networks should be a part of DNA, not bolted-on


Social design for knowledge sharing in an organisation should be conceptualised from the ground up, and not just as social layers. Social networks help reinforce organisational culture and values, according to Nirmala Palaniappan of Oracle. The “Three Cs” in people’s social network profiles are consuming, contributing, connecting.


7. Context is king


While much KM focuses on content management, the real key is context, according to Rajashree Natarajan of Cognizant. “What may be data to you today may be knowledge tomorrow,” she explained. Thus organisations should be able to weave different views and interpretations on top of existing assets. There is no fixed end state for successful KM — knowledge is dynamic and horizons will continue to change, according to Vinita Bali of Brittania Industries.


8. Youth and knowledge sharing behaviours


“Digital natives,” especially in the world of mobile and social media, exhibit very different knowledge sharing behaviours from “digital immigrants.” Older generation used to differentiate between task and personal – the younger generation integrates everything naturally, observed Natarajan. Even their language is different, added J.K. Suresh, joking about how they use the word “whatever” in unique ways!


9. KM Promotion and Branding


Cool, meaningful and participatory branding is the way to go when it comes to KM activities and roles. Cognizant’s KM events month, November, is called Knowember; Dinesh Tantri of ThoughtWorks has the title Knowledge Ninja! Large global organisations may have a plethora of initiatives and tools, and KM is a good way of harmonising them. Organisations should pitch their KM tools and portal as a reliable way of getting to information, answers and people, advised Palaniappan. Tagging features, discovery tools and dashboard views are useful in this regard.


10. Knowledge worker = Centre of the universe


Effective personal knowledge management is the most critical skill of the 21st century, according to Ron Young of Knowledge Associates. It is vital for managers to closely observe how employees work socially, and model knowledge cultures around it. “Nothing works unless the users want it to work and use it. The user’s experience is critical,” urged Natarajan; go to whichever social media people are comfortable in participating. “Make work as observable as possible. Documentation is not a substitute for interaction,” advised Tantri.


11. Beyond CoPs: Conversations and Narrative


KM initiatives are now successfully targeting the importance of communication in knowledge communities. “The most basic knowledge process is also the most ignored: conversation! The next step is to improve the quality of the conversations,” advised Verna Allee, citing examples like Intel. (I agree; in my KM engagements, I even train KM facilitators to act like DJs!)


12. New Frontiers: Inter-organisational KM, Innovation Ecosystems


“We have to get out of the comfort zone that KM has gotten into; we need a new way of imagining the world,” according to JK Suresh of Infosys. India needs more conducive innovation ecosystems across the board, according to Sandhya Shekar of IIT Madras Research Park. The environment and landscape of innovation have changed, and the “luster of clusters” can be exploited in groupings like tech parks. The open innovation enterprise needs to understand facilitation, cross-domain expertise, and external knowledge repositories.


13. Spirituality and Cultural Values


Respect, humility, passion and being comfortable with ambiguity are core cultural values for successful KM. Having a spiritual orientation also helps, according to William Miller, who has contributed to the book “Leading with Wisdom,” based on spiritually-inspired management practices. Miller identified five kinds of intellectual capital: renewal, process, human, leadership and stakeholder capital. Creativity, integrity and global thinking are key for sustainable innovation. “Can India lead the world into the next dimension of of KM, which includes exploring knowledge within,” asked Ron Young. (I was delighted when he cited a number of quotes and proverbs from my new book, “Indian Proverbs and Quotations; see samples at   :-)


14. The Future of KM


“Some people think that KM is dead – it has yet to begin!” observes Ron Young. KM as a movement has just started to move, added a delegate from TCS. Organisations used to drive KM, but now individuals using Web tools are placing demands on their organisations for better KM, thus bringing fresh blood into the field. The knowledge movement continues to grow from strength to strength thanks to grassroots communities of KM professionals, events, national initiatives, cross-cultural collaboration, professional acceptance, and awards (for instance, the MAKE India Award winners this year include: EurekaForbes, Infosys, L&T Construction, Tata Steel, TCS, Wipro Technologies, and MindTree). KM is no longer the sole perserve of MNCs as in the 1990s — now NGOs, SMEs, and government agencies are also getting on board (however, events like KM India should expand their focus and format in this regard: Every Netizen can contribute to the knowledge movement, unlike earlier eras.


15. India’s Knowledge Edge: Chindia, Chimerica and beyond


Digital interactions are the new building blocks of knowledge creation, and will be accelerated in India via infrastructure like cloud computing, according to Pradeep Kar of Microland. But China is far ahead of India in digital infrastructure. The city of Dalian wants to target and overtake Bangalore. But China is centralised and ageing, whereas India is more innovative and young – yet Indians should not get too complacent, cautioned Anil Menon of Cisco. The next Nokia will come from India, predicts Kar. KM is spreading from India’s private sector into government as well; Prajapati Trivedi, Secretary for Performance Management, Government of India, drew much applause for his commitment to KM across the board in government agencies.


India’s GDP share in the world in the pre-colonial era was 24%; the UK’s was 2%. Colonial rule reversed that ratio, but now the tables may be turned again. However, India has 100s of millions of people without education, which represents a huge knowledge gap for generations. Cisco has acknowledged India’s knowledge advantage: it has its second global HQ here in Bangalore, observed S. Sadagopan of IIIT-B. Knowledge gives you the power to reinvent yourself, he added, also joking that the story of India is the story of two kinds of devotees: the devotees of Saraswati and the devotees of Lakshmi!


[ See my blogposts on KM Asia 2010 and KM Singapore 2010:


[ See also my blogposts from #KMindia 2009 last year:  ]



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