Monthly Archives: June 2003

“Autistic” Organizations

Going through some of this stuff about organizational behavior, it struck me that if you look at many organizations as a super-organism, and compare its behavior and characteristics to an individual human’s behavior (a stretch, I know), you will see an organization that looks very much like it is autistic.

You can see all the hallmarks: no theory of mind, overload (inability to effectively process) of information.

“Standardization” of Knowledge Management

Though Knowledge Management has been “hot” for some time now, there is still a debate about whether the field is ready for standardization. There is some debate, in fact, about whether KM can ever be standardized.

This press release from KMCI (Knowledge Management Consortium International) presents a pretty compelling argument that KM is not ready for standardization, at least not from the likes of ISO:

The ISO is not an authority in the KM field. It has not developed specific Knowledge Management expertise or capability over a period of years. It has not developed criteria for standards evaluation and validation that are continuously tested and evaluated, but rather has developed such criteria based on mere consensus in the fields in which standards have been adopted and formulated. It has devoted no time or resources to developing a body of knowledge about the scope and nature of Knowledge Management. And its procedures, processes, and validation criteria are not exempt from critical analysis coming from a KM point of view.

In the view of KMCI, therefore, it is inappropriate for KM organizations to recognize the authority of ANSI or ISO in setting standards for KM. In fact, it is KM, as a discipline, and through its own organizations that should be setting standards for the processes of inquiry followed by ISO and ANSI in arriving at standards in other fields, and not the reverse.

I don’t think it gets any more clearly stated than that.

Organizational Doctors

Just as neuroscientists work with individuals to figure out what may be physically wrong with that person’s brain, and psychologists/psychiatrists work with individuals to figure out how they can improve their mental health, the Knowledge Management practitioner works with an organization to figure out what is wrong/can be fixed in the IT infrastructure and how the organization can improve its processes.

Some KM’ers are organizational neuroscientists, specialists working exclusively in the area of technical infrastructure. These guys and gals design and build the the connections and the software that make things work. Unfortunately, very few of these folks actually know how an organization uses all this high-tech stuff, and very rarely do these folks make use themselves of what they do for others.

That is where the organizational psychologist/psychiatrist comes in. In another age, these folks were the business process re-engineers, or the TQM (shudder) people coming in to “fix” you.

While the IT piece of knowledge management is very complex, is has become much more a science than an art. The process side, on the other hand, remains very much an art, with a little science thrown in.

KM and the Brain

When we talk about brains, we talk about neuroscience as dealing with the technology and psychology/psychiatry as dealing with the processes of the brain.

Many KM practitioners recognize, indeed advocate, the distinction of two perspectives on KM: Object and Process. Together they make up a System perspective. You can’t really look at one without the other. You can’t really function without both.

As I’m sure you’ve deduced, I’m leading to an analogy:

Neuroscience Object / Technology Perspective

Psych Process Perspective

In other words, KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IS THE NEUROSCIENCE AND PSYCHOLOGY/PSYCHIATRY OF AN ORGANIZATION.

Googling “Return on Knowledge”

I figured the best way to start finding out about ROK was to Google it. The search on “Return on Knowledge” returned about 869 results, the top ones being such things as:

Return on Knowledge

“Show Me the Money” – Measuring the Return on Knowledge .pdf &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp (Google HTML)

Can you measure return on knowledge? .pdf &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp (Google HTML)

The list goes on and on and on….

Measuring the value of Knowledge

In the world of Information Technology, a key measure of success and failure is Return on Investment, or ROI. For many IT things, measuring the direct impact is a straightforward matter, such as how many man-hours were saved because of the insertion of technology.

Since many knowledge management initiatives and systems are seen as information technology projects, many times run through the CIO/CTO, it is only natural that many people want to apply this same measure of ROI to knowledge. But how do you measure something like that?

A concept that has logically evolved is that of Return on Knowledge. As part of some current research I’m working on, I am exploring that very question. Unfortunately, it is not as straightforward as a simple ROI.

Organizational Knowledge – What is it (part 2)

When most people discuss Knowledge Management in organizations, they are mainly talking about managing the knowledge of the individuals in the workforce. It seems to me that from an organizational standpoint this is really nothing more than information management. I say that because the “knowledge” that a worker possesses, when put into the larger context of an organization, is simple information that the organization uses to create knowledge, make decisions, etc.

As knowledge in humans is the interconnectedness of information in neurons in the brain, so then is Organizational knowledge the knowledge that the organization possesses as a result of the interconnectedness of the information in the neurons – that is, the people – in the organization.