Knowledge Flow in Bouncing Back from Covid-19

In the current Covid-19 climate, the need for organisations to bounce back, and increasing interest around Knowledge Management (KM), I was asked recently what KM actually is. It’s important to remember the foundational principles while adapting them to the current situation.

Amongst other things, strategic KM improves performance, mitigates risk, strengthens corporate memory and raises staff morale.

How do we retain the KM principles while adapting to the current time & need? I thought I’d share a few thoughts on this.

My KM journey began in 1997. While working at BP, I was rung by a senior manager and asked to attend a KM workshop and report back on my views. In short, I was captivated by this workshop! “Why haven’t we always worked this way?” was a key question that came to mind.

I realised that KM is about treating what we know, both individually and collectively, as an organisational asset – in much the same way as we treat our financial, and other, assets.

KM then becomes about the application of practical frameworks, roles, processes, technology and governance to manage that asset in a professional way. It’s crucial that KM is quickly shown to move on from being a fine philosophy or a compelling set of principles to a practical approach.

There have been many proposed definitions of KM over the years. One of my favourites is the following from Larry Prusak. It’s one of the originals and still one of the best in my view:

“Knowledge Management is the attempt to recognise what is essentially a human asset buried in the minds of individuals and leverage it into a corporate asset that can be used by a broader set of individuals on whose decisions the company depends.”

I particularly like this definition as it stresses the human aspect and also that KM is about supporting delivery of the organisation and not an end in itself. Daily in organisations we take decisions large and small, consciously and unconsciously, and the better knowledge we have as individuals and teams, the better those decisions will be.

KM is not simply a database or collection of lessons or the methodical filing of documents. It’s not just about communities, remote working, the world of digital or the application of individual knowledge transfer for departing retirees no matter how well executed. It’s all of these things, and more, applied in a complete, integrated and holistic way. You need knowledge flow; otherwise, it’s like trying to sell half a car, or even 90% of a car, this is not really going to work!

The key message is that KM needs to be a complete system, factory or production line of knowledge.

Other people, teams, departments, companies & countries may have the knowledge we need at any given time. KM supports processes for recognising this and how it can flow to those that need it – in a systematic, routine and professional manner.

Achieving Knowledge flow is like an effective knowledge economy.This strategic approach, as opposed to tactical, is harder to implement initially not least because of the cultural implications, but it means it is much more sustainable.

Looking for a means to help your organisation bounce back from Covid 19? Proactive KM adapted to remote working, the digital environment and retaining a focus on knowledge flow is a good way to achieve this.