KM Asia 2009: Top Ten Takeaways

KM Asia 2009: Top Ten Takeaways


by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles



The first KM Asia conference I attended was in 2002, and I have been a regular ever since. The event this year in Singapore as usual drew lots of speakers from Singapore, India, US, UK and Australia, and attendees from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. But for an “Asia” event, the countries Japan, China and Korea were not represented.


Here are my Top Ten takeaways from the speakers of KM Asia 2009:


1. Metaphors for knowledge, KM and knowledge environments


As with other conferences like KM India (see, most speakers began with their differing definitions of knowledge and KM implementations. For instance, Shirlyn Kim of Singapore Armed Forces said that knowledge is like money, and to have value in an organisation it must be circulated and have use in transactions. Arthur Shelley likened knowledge roles to the animals in an organisational zoo, such as the lion (territorial, charismatic), eagle (inspirational, instinctual), bee (collaborative, but with a sting!), owl (quiet achiever), and dog (loyal, enthusiastic)! KM practitioners should understand their own organisational zoo and adjust the behavioural environment accordingly.


2. Mesh or Mess? Integration is key for large organisations


By structure and legacy, large organisations tend to be silo-oriented, and a key challenge continues to be networking across silos. The Asian Development Bank is turning to the younger generation of employees in their 30s to embark on knowledge activities without inherited silo mindsets of the past. ADB’s Rita Nangia joked that sometimes the intended mesh of platforms becomes a mess of platforms! The Singapore Armed Forces is seeking an integrated approach via interoperable infrastructure for navy, airforce, army and the like.


3. Available is not the same as Accessible, Accessible is not the same as Usable


Thanks to the proliferation of digital content management systems and portals, a wealth of archived organisational and Internet downloaded information is available on most corporate Intranets. But without proper indexing and visualisation tools, much of this information may not be easily visible. And even if the information is accessible, not much of it may be usable for all users due to variations in granularity, size, writing style and contextual priming. For instance, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singaopre encourages the use of “Learning Bites” for interest groups, focusing on knowledge nuggets on topics of interest, according to  Ernest Kian Meng Lee.


4. Social Media usage differs by generation, but one should not be bound by stereotypes


Digital natives tend to naturally gravitate towards social media, and indeed one may have the opposite of the knowledge hoarding problem: some members of Generation V (“virtual”) almost share too much information, observed John Girard of Minot State University! But at the same time, digital immigrants can bring other valuable perspectives to the table. (A good example is the “workcasting” or “mindcasting” use of Twitter by employees as opposed to the “lifecasting” approach of teenagers.)


5. Communication is key for KM activities


I continue to be surprised by how many KM practitioners lack a background or foundation in communications: mass media, interpersonal media, and social media. Of all the case studies in my KM book series, only three feature KM practices headed by internal communications or marketing teams! (They are ICICI Bank, i2 Technologies and EurekaForbes.) Starting off with too strong a focus on IT tools and platforms can lose the direction, focus or punch of the KM initiative. KM committees must therefore include people whose core role is organisational communication.


6. Branding and names should reflect organisational culture


Care should be taken to choose the name and identity of the KM architecture and roles of an organisation. TechMahindra calls its employees TechMighties, and has specific roles for Internal Evangelists and Internal Ambassadors. Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) calls its KM programme eSILK (enterprise system for innovation, learning and knowledge), inspired by the information highways of the Silk Route.


7. Techniques like unbrainstorming and dostorming can be effective too!


Rather than the usual brainstorming sessions on how to do things, sometimes an “unbrainstorming” session on how NOT to do things works! Then you flip things around and proactively address the issues, according to David Gurteen. For instance, typical ways of retarding knowledge sharing are dictatorial control, destructive criticism, poor crediting mechanisms, and ban on use of Internet in the workplace. And instead of just indulging in “paralysis of analysis,” it helps to take the plunge and do specific things (“dostorming”) and then step back to analyse the results (probe, analyse, respond), according to Mary Lee Kennedy.


8. Knowledge activities have intangible outcomes which can’t always be quantified


Many activities such as knowledge cafes may not yield immediately quantifiable benefits, but serve useful long terms goals of engaging and immersing in knowledge behaviours, according to David Gurteen. Active involvement by all participants is key in such organisational cross-departmental activities.


9. KM requires lifelong learning


Continuing internal organic growth as well as changes in IT tools and the management body of knowledge (BoK) will require KM practitioners to continually learn, adapt and innovate in their KM worldview and implementation. “KM is a journey and not a destination,” observed Nilesh Dabke of TechMahindra. “KM needs to transform itself. Enterprise 2.0 is one such opportunity,” said Olivier Amprimo of NLB.


10. Digital Scholarship and Expertise will seriously impact knowledge behaviours


For collaborative and academic activities on the global Internet, digital scholarship and expert publications are seriously impacting knowledge production, innovation and national competitive positioning. Peer reviews, authoritativeness, privacy and IPR will be key issues here, according to Mary Lee Kennedy of HBS. The Internet is a game-changer, thanks to the combined push and pull of new services, disintermediation and consolidation, observed Olivier Amprimo of Singapore’s National Library Board. Singapore recognises knowledge as a key competitive advantage, reflected in its journey along the phases characterised as labour intensive, skills intensive, capital intensive, knowledge intensive and now innovation/experience intensive.



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