Recently, I listed 4 high-level parts of an information and knowledge management continuum: personal / individual, group / team, organizational, and external interaction. The first three can be seen as a “path” that many (most?) organizations follow in their creation and growth. (The last – external interaction – is a key function for the other three that I won’t get into here.)
First, an individual has an idea. Using various personal information and knowledge management type techniques (e.g., basic research, remembering where they wrote down notes and contact information, etc.), the individual refines the idea until it has potential value for others besides the individual.
At this point, the individual finds like-minded individuals to form a “team” to further develop the idea and start the process of getting it to market. Not only does each individual need to do some personal IM / KM, but the two (or three or four) must now work together and figure out how to manage the info and knowledge they are generating as a team.
Once a product is to market, or even before, the team will expand into an “organization.” Even if it is not a large organization, certain key functions will become “standardized” – such as payroll, HR, etc. In addition to the personal and team IM / KM going on, an organizational infrastructure develops to handle the needs of the organization as a whole. Sometimes (probably far too often) this infrastructure develops ad hoc and by default, with little thought given to a design or long term goals. Individuals and teams must now work within this infrastructure as well as within their own.
Ideally, the organizational infrastructure will support not just the IM requirements required for the smooth operation of the organization but will also easily support and accomodate the IM/KM needs of the individuals and teams that actually do the organization’s work. For well established organizations, especially large organizations, this is likely a very difficult (though not impossible) goal to achieve.
Smaller companies looking to grow or individuals just starting out with an idea, however, are in a much better position to build (grow?) an effective IM/KM structure and culture from the ground up. Unfortunately, there seems to be little short term benefit in long term IM/KM planning for start-ups who are focusing on simply making it work.