purple cow Last week I promised to follow up on my Purple Cow post by listing some of the ‘remarkable’ things that companies are doing (or at least talking about doing) in Knowledge Management. If you’re interested in knowing who’s leading the charge in each these areas, e-mail me and (subject to some confidentiality considerations) I’ll tell you more.

Issue/Challenge Purple Cow
Information overload
Keep less: Institute rigorous filters, and disciplined abstracting to capture less but ensure that what is captured has high value to others. Reward people for contributions of knowledge that make it through the filters, and for taking the time to create abstracts. Ensure the abstract explains the context , the lesson, and who to call for more detail . Expect the abstract to be more valuable than the document behind it. Let users set and amend the filtering criteria, and make sure they’re consistent with the organization’s priorities, strategies, and burning issues. Let people rate intranet content and filter out the low-rated stuff.
Every knowledge need is unique, so most of what is collected in the intranet ‘just in case’ is never used
Canvass, don’t collect:Change the emphasis from contributing knowledge (supply-driven) to knowledge canvassing (demand-driven). Re-train and equip your librarians and knowledge intermediaries to be excellent just-in-time canvassers: they already have the basic skill set, but probably need to bone up on primary (person-to-person solicitation of information) research techniques, and how to package what they learn for maximum user value.
The most valuable internal knowledge never gets shared due to other work priorities or the format in which it is produced
Harvest ‘know-who’, & Use blogs: Create or customize knowledge harvesting tools that go out and scour employees’ hard drives and e-mail servers to see what subjects each employee is talking and writing about, and from that develop a “who knows what about x” table  (automated expertise registry). Give the content aggregators, editors, community of practice coordinators and subject matter experts in the organization simple blogs, show them how blogs can make their content management jobs easier, and build tools that mine the hell out of their blog content.
The most valuable knowledge about customers is not publicly available
Educate your customers:Develop tools that (while protecting customer confidentiality) solicit customer knowledge online (through extranets etc.) and give value back to the customer in return. For example, get unpublished financial and operating data from private company customers by developing a survey or analytical tool that gives the customer a financial report card (financial ratios out of whack, solvency Z-scores etc.) The customer is hence incented to provide the data to you, and you can use it to identify additional opportunities to sell products or provide service to that customer. In other words, use your extranet and public internet site to educate customers, not just directly sell to them.
Getting customer attention, and forging tighter relationships with customers
Give really useful stuff away free: Learn from musicians who give away free .mp3 cuts to sell whole albums, and writers who give away free books to spur sales to others. If it’s good, giving it away free doesn’t diminish its value, it creates more value for everything else you have to offer, and for your customer relationships. If you don’t have anything useful you can give away for free, buy or develop something that you can.

Some of these things may not seem very remarkable, but every one of them flies in the face of ‘conventional wisdom’ about KM, and every one of them is paying big dividends for the pioneers that are doing it.

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  1. Regarding this last point: Microsoft has made this the foundation of their business model. Seems to have worked too.regards – rich

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    They may be one-upped by IBM, which is talking about giving away enterprise versions of its equivalent of MS Office free with the purchase of its enterprise server.

  3. I really liked your page with the conscise listing of the Purple cows. I am just trying to sell Knowledge Management in my organization and I was wondering if you could help me -* can you point me to a resource which lists the companies that are doing some form of KNowledge Management ?Just looking for a listing – it would add some weight to my presentation.ThanksMurali

  4. Irma at FIU can help you with this. Here is her contact info. Hope this helps. Let me know….Name: IRMA BECERRA-FERNANDEZ Title: ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Dept: DECISION SCIENCES/INF.SYS/CBA Office: RB 256A Phone: 305-348-3476 Secondary Phone: 305-348-2830 Fax: 305-348-4126 Username: becferi E-mail Alias:

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