Knowledge Management

Richard Charles Holloway learnshops at
Mon Oct 4 14:54:02 PDT 1999


your illustration is quite perceptive.  You've described a systemic need to
capture (make tacit) what one person knows so that the organization can
learn.  KM is, essentially, an integral component of any self-organizing
system.  When I work with people who are beginning to change their culture
so that they can adopt KM practices and principles, we use the learning
model (I've forgotten who to attribute this to, so please forgive me) that
depicts the move from:

Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence
to Unconscious Competence.

We all know people (including ourselves) who have mastered certain sets of
knowledge, skills and abilities to the extent that they "use" these KSA sets
without really thinking about it.  I use a common example, that of people
who drive their auto from home to work, only to realize on arrival at their
worksite that they don't remember how they got there!

In your illustration, the experienced nurse used her Unconscious Competence
(tacit skills, knowledge and abilities) to save a life.  To get her to share
that tacit KSA set is very challenging, because she has to consciously map
out how and why she did what she did (sort of like trying to remember the
trip to work that was "blanked" out).

Once we can turn that tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, we need to
somehow capture the context (the situation that called the knowledge into
action) and the solution (how the nurse responded and why).  If we can
capture and structure it so that we can allow for dynamic retrieval by
someone else (just-in-time knowledge), then other nurses or care-givers can
describe a similar situation (one which shares a context pattern
relationship) and retrieve the knowledge object.  It may not provide
"exactly" the right solution for the new problem, but it may at least
suggest an approach, insight or idea which can help save another life.

This is at least one aspect of knowledge management, or as I prefer to call
it, organizational memory.

I'm pleased to read some of the ongoing dialog about KM in this list for one
specific reason.  OS is a one of the best ways I know to facilitate
significant change in an organization.  Adopting KM practices and principles
requires significant change to organizational systems, especially those we
call human systems or culture.  An effective KM change effort will be
stymied if the organization cannot transform itself...and without systemic
KM practices and principles, many enterprise organizations may not remain
competitive enough to survive.

The good news is that this transformation "humanizes" organizations in ways
that many of them are unable or unwilling to realize right now.  An
effective KM adoption relies on collaborative skills (team
practices)...which in turn relies on each person and collaborative group to
develop their capacity for self-direction.  It also relies on leaders at
every part of the organization who can help shape the organization's future
and develop the organization's capacity to sustain change.  I've found great
delight in realizing that the only way that many of these enterprise
organizations can survive is to develop the capacity of each of their
members to lead themselves and their teams in collaborative contributing
ways.  Experiencing Open Space is certainly a path which can lead to that.


Richard (Doc) Holloway
"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the
people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise
their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from
them, but to inform their discretion by education." --Thomas Jefferson

Richard Charles Holloway -
P.O. Box 2361, Olympia, WA 98507 USA Telephone 253.539.4014 or 206.568.7730
Thresholds <>
Meeting Masters <>

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