Top 12 Tips from India for KM Practitioners

Knowledge Management: Top 12 Tips from India for KM Practitioners

 

by Madanmohan Rao      Oct 30, ‘09

Knowledge Management consultant and author

http://twitter.com/MadanRao

Email: madan @techsparks.com

 

 

Thanks to the speakers and participants of the fourth annual KM India summit (www.KMindia.in) for sharing their KM experiences and insights! The organisational case studies from India would make for an entire series of books and journals (coming soon — hint hint!), but here are some of the key dozen lessons and tips that stand out for me:

 

1. KM practices must start off with a solid understanding of knowledge and its role in the organisation

 

Knowledge can be interpreted in multiple ways and via multiple metaphors, and this is an important starting point to understand how it can be embedded in organisational workflow and aligned with organisational mission. These metaphors and conceptual frameworks will eventually be reflected in the KM architecture, so it is worth spending a lot of time on this phase at launchtime and lunchtime. This needs to be periodically revisited as well. (See my blogpost on KM metaphors in Indian organisations: http://km.techsparks.com/?p=50)

 

2. Create with freedom, nurture with passion, change with detachment

 

Knowledge creation and ideation should be characterised by free thought, just as in the case of a child. Knowledge cultures should be nurtured by almost maniacal passion and action. The change that is needed to promote and sustain knowledge advantages should be done in an assertive manner (almost ruthlessly, like a warrior, according to Gopichand Katragadda, GM at GE India Energy Infrastructure!).

 

3. Knowledge sharing should be encouraged by the peer and top management levels

 

Peer communities in social computing platforms and incentive schemes can promote knowledge sharing behaviours. In a top-down manner, periodic reviews can also be used to send out the message that knowledge sharing and learning are expected and knowledge hoarding is not appreciated (eg. in TCS).

 

4. Social media should be tapped for accelerating and enhancing knowledge stocks and flows

 

Social media over the past few years have yielded useful benefits, eg to quality, sales, HR, operational delivery at TCS (via iQMS Wiki, JustAsk social Q&A platform, IdeaMan platform for ideas, MindWords social quizzing platform). Social media can be promoted by top management setting an example, eg. the CEO of Cognizant himself is an avid blogger. Social media help create knowledge nuggets in different “sizes” (HCL Technologies advocates Just in Time knowledge as well as Just Enough Knowledge).

 

5. Use Enterprise Search Tools to unearth knowledge fragments and trace experts

 

The use of social media will lead to the creation of “digital breadcrumbs” or useful knowledge nuggets scattered in real-time micro-narrative streams (eg Twitter/Yammer). Use federated search tools to unearth these nuggets and trace valuable experts and volunteers (eg. in Cognizant, HCL Tech).

 

6. Hierarchies and Flat Networks will co-exist; classic and new must synergise

 

Social media should certainly be promoted, but investments in earlier KM infrastructure should also be harnessed and blended. Processes for codification, editing and distilling knowledge assets will still be useful. Organisational hierarchies will co-exist with flatter social networks (eg. in Wipro). Top-down taxonomies must co-exist with bottom-up folksonomies (eg. in HCL Tech).

 

7. Focus more on good practices than best practices

 

Choosing best practices may take a lot of unnecessary extra effort and may become political; and a practice may be “best” only for a limited amount of time. It is better to choose a set of good practices, and let the stakeholders harness KM efforts to improve these practices (eg. at GE, HCL Tech).

 

8. Learn from failures and worst practices as well

 

“Fail early and iterate often” and “Perpetual Beta” was a message that came across strongly from a number of organisations (eg. GE India, Cognizant). This applies to tools as well as broader management practices. EurekaForbes focuses not just on Knowledge Gems (knowledge discovery) but also Knowledge Pearls – learning from irritants and problems and awarding those who convert these learnings into knowledge nuggets.

 

9. Workspace and event design are important

 

Though much attention focuses on online social media tools, it is also important to address office/workplace design. ThoughtWorks has no cubicles, leaders do not have cabins, people sit on the floor or on tables during discussions if they wish, and office size is kept to less than 200 people. In addition to conference formats, unconferences and barcamps are also good for unleashing collaborative energy (eg at Cognizant).

 

10. Knowledge work and activities must be embedded in organisational workflow

 

The kiss of death for KM is when you hear the following comment about an employee: “He does no work around here, he only does KM.” KM should be seamlessly intertwined with organisational work; but at the same time, it helps to have a certain amount of time for introspection and refining past knowledge assets. Knowledge retreats and events are useful here; Cognizant has “K-November,” an entire month devoted to special promotions and fairs about KM.

 

11. KM is more than a resource, it is a liberator; Knowledge is supreme

 

As IIIT-B dean S. Sadagopan eloquently said, KM is beneficial to an organisation when it manages knowledge as a resource for productivity and innovation – but KM (especially through social media) can liberate citizens and employees intellectually and emotionally. And that is where knowledge is supreme – acquiring and sharing knowledge can give a kind of unparalleled joy and satisfaction. Historically, academic institutions have outlasted the mightiest corporations.

 

12. Infrastructure, Education, Cooperation, Culture are key for National Competitive Advantage in KM

 

Unless Internet/mobile/broadband infrastructure improves in India, most of our citizens will be left out of active participation in the global knowledge movement of the 21st century. These are our knowledge workers and champions of the future. India has tremendous “soft power” in indigenous knowledge traditions, spiritual wealth, mentoring practices, a global diaspora, and an ability to deal with frustrating chaos – but we need to go to the next step and cooperate across sectors to accelerate the KM movement. Culture and cross-disciplinary education yield long-term advantage, but we need medium-term and near-term gains as well.

 

I would love to hear of key learnings from other attendees at the event as well, and from KM conferences in other countries – DM or email me, thanks in advance!!

 

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