Friday Flashback: KM 0.0 — A Pragmatic Approach to Social Networking and Knowledge Management for Business

For fifteen years, since the discipline called ‘Knowledge Management’ was invented, my ideas on how best to accomplish its lofty goals (improving front-line worker productivity and innovation through better knowledge-sharing and collaboration) have evolved continuously.

Now. at last, I think I have a framework that applies to just about any organization. It’s pragmatic, and less ambitious than many such frameworks. It responds to what I keep hearing from people on the front lines of organizations — it addresses the real problems that most people have finding and using information effectively. It is focused on context and connectivity rather than on content and collection, on personalization and engagement and enablement rather than monster repositories and websites.

Two months ago I summarized this, and now, whenever I am asked to speak about KM or social networking (which is often), this is the gist of what I tell them. Since it’s short, I’m repeating the whole article rather than linking back to it:


KM 1.0: all about content and collection KM 0.0 (PKM): all about context and connection
content management, search and delivery platform large centralized just-in-case content repositories of ‘submitted’ ‘reusable’ documents with standardized taxonomy and search tools personal content management tools – everyone manages their own content, just-in-time, harvestable
content publishing, browsing and information flow large complicated centrally-managed intranets for ‘publishing’ and ‘browsing’ content; main information flows are top-down instruction (policies, directories), bottom-up submission RSS-publishable and subscribable personal web pages, blogs and small-group-created wikis; main information flows are what matters to each person, peer-to-peer
communities communities of practice – centrally established and managed, content-focused communities of passion – self-managed and ad hoc, conversation-focused 
content format paradigm “best practices’ (stripped down) stories (detailed, context-rich); visualizations
public presence and
public websites (boundaries established by firewall) everything inside is open and shared outside unless it’s illegal to do so (community of the whole world)
research licensed databases purchased from outside info-professionals (disintermediation) high-value, high-meaning RSS-subscribable content produced by internal info-professionals (reintermediation):

  • awareness alerts (what’s new?), 
  • research (what does it mean?), 
  • guidance (what should we do about it?)
connectivity enablers e-mail
  • IM
  • virtual meeting tools (desktop video, other simple ubiquitous real-time tools)
  • organization and facilitation of real & virtual community-self-initiated self-managed events, including Open Space hosting & facilitation
  • people-finding and community-creating tools
what’s served up on the public website what the company wants you to know: press releases, sales material what the customer wants to know: multimedia interactive self-assessment tools

In a recent post where I waxed rhapsodic about how the best approach to everything could be reduced to three magic words (love, conversation, community), I presented this one-sentence summary of how this might apply to knowledge management (KM):

KM is simply the art enabling trusted, context-rich conversations among the appropriate members of communities about things these communities are passionate about.

In another recent post I laid out how the work of information professionals is now being done in (what I consider) leading organizations, around five key types of deliverables: awareness products, research products, guidance products, self-assessment and connectivity tools, and facilitated events.

At the request of several readers, I’ve pulled this all together in the table above into a framework for what some have called KM 2.0, but which I prefer to call KM 0.0, because it’s getting back to the roots of why and how people share what they know. It could also be called PKM — Personal Knowledge Management — because it’s about self-managed content and peer-to-peer connectivity.

I think the yellow column above — the well-worn and failed traditional approach to KM that many of us tried to institute in the 1990s, based on content and collection — is pretty self-explanatory, and depressing as a legacy. The green column above is slowly evolving in many organizations, but not because knowledge ‘leaders’ and managers have realized its potential. Rather, the emerging KM 0.0 is being instituted by people on the front lines and at the edges of organizations — working around the established systems and security standards of the organization.

Most of this KM 0.0 stuff is inexpensive and ubiquitous, so enterprising information and IT professionals can introduce it without having to get permission and resources from management. Here’s a walk-through of what it comprises:

  1. Personal content management tools — everyone manages their own content, just-in-time, harvestable. Forget the giant central content repositories. KM 0.0 focuses on the stuff on everyone’s personal (mostly portable) devices. Instead, teach your front-line people how to effectively manage and organize this personal content (using Google desktop etc.), so it complements their memory and replaces their filing cabinets. Then, show them how, by saving this personal content in a ‘public’ partition on their hard drives, it can be harvested by others, just in time. So when someone in your organization (or even outside it) is looking for know-how, know-what, or know-who, their search will scan all the ‘public’ content in all the hard drives of the company, and not only return the relevant content, but the contact information of the people who authored it, and who can provide context for it.
  2. RSS-publishable and subscribable personal web pages, blogs and small-group-created wikis — Give everyone in the organization a very simple, intuitive set of tools for authoring their own individual (blog-type tools) and small group (wiki-type tools) content. So everyone becomes a publisher and, with RSS technology, everyone (authorized) can subscribe to everyone else’s content. Each person gets their own personal daily ‘newspaper’ of articles authored by the people whose content they want to read. So instead of forcing information flows to conform to the hierarchy of the organization chart, you enable anyone to send and receive information they care about.
  3. Communities of passion — self-managed and ad hoc, conversation-focused. So no matter who you are, you can set up a community yourself on any subject, and invite anyone else with passion for that subject, and in moments be up and connected with that community, running it yourselves, with the features you want, not the company ‘standard’. 
  4. Stories and visualizations as the principal formats of content — Instead of context-stripped ‘best practices’, authors are encouraged to tell stories and provide anecdotes that provide the detail and context for understanding what the information really means. And information professionals add further value by using visualizations to condense volumes of data and text into forms that the human mind more easily comprehends.
  5. Open access: everything inside the organization is open and shared outside unless it’s illegal to do so. By participating in a community of the whole world, you open your organization to outside innovation, to open source resources, to peer production with customers.
  6. Reintermediation: High-value, high-meaning RSS-subscribable content is produced by internal info-professionals who know how and why the people of the company use information, instead of buying and licensing it from outside ‘experts’. Much of that IP-produced content is in three formats, to answer three ubiquitous questions about knowledge:
    • awareness alerts (what’s new that’s important to our organization?)
    • research (what does it mean?)
    • guidance (what should we do about it?)
  7. A simple set of connectivity enablers: Going far beyond one-size-fits-none e-mail, the connectivity suite includes
    • IM — for real-time canvassing and impromptu connection
    • virtual meeting tools — desktop video and other simple ubiquitous real-time tools to provide ‘virtual presence’ without the cost and time needed to travel to meet face-to-face
    • organization and facilitation of real & virtual, community-self-initiated, self-managed events that help communities self-organize, including Open Space hosting & facilitation
    • people-finding and community-creating tools
  8. Public site geared to what the customer wants to know: Featuring multimedia interactive self-assessment tools and other resources customers want and can really use, instead of the flat sales-and-marketing material transcribed from company brochures

These eight components of KM 0.0 / PKM are the antithesis of what most large organizations provide as Knowledge Management resources. Most of them are quite simple and inexpensive to implement. They simply enable trusted, context-rich conversations among communities that care.Imagine that.

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