The Knowledge Management Iceberg model

The KM iceberg is a common image, but what does it really mean?

The Iceberg is a very familiar model within Knowledge Management, seen in many slide presentations. I first used it myself in the public domain, in an article in Knowledge management magazine, 2000, entitled “Mining the deep knowledge – tapping into things you don’t know you know” (contact me through comments for a reprint) and I have re-used it many times over the last couple of decades.

In the iceberg analogy,the documented knowledge of an organisation is like the visible portion of an iceberg, and the undocumented explicit knowledge (things people know that they know but have not documented) is underwater, but close to the surface, in the daylight zone where it is visible.

The documented knowledge can, in theory, be seen and found easily, as it lies in plain sight.

Similarly the undocumented explicit knowledge can be found and accessed if you can find the right people to direct a query to.

However deeper down, out of sight, lies the vast mass of unconscious tacit knowledge; the bulk of the iceberg. This knowledge is invisible, inaccessible, and easily overlooked. These are the things that people don’t necessarily know that they know – the unknown knowns – and this is very often the deep-lying technical knowledge and mastery that is of real value to others.

Before this knowledge can be shared and applied, it first needs to be made conscious. A process of realisation is needed, to move the knowledge into the conscious domain, and to bring it up into the sunlight.

Much as data may need to be mined out of documents to be useful, so the unconscious knowledge needs to be mined out of the human brain before it can be made conscious and explicit, and then (if necessary) documented. This “brain mining” is a skill, which can be learnt and taught, but it is primarily a human activity that cannot be automated. It is however the highest value step in the entire spectrum of knowledge management activity.

The mining tools we use to reach this deep knowledge are Questions, and any knowledge management system that does not somewhere involve some question-based processes will never reach the deep dark unconscious tacit knowledge where the real secrets of success and failure are to be found.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

When learners become teachers – how community roles shift over time

Community of practice members may start by being learners and end up being teachers who still learn.

Let’s look at patterns of behaviour in a Community of Practice forum, or discussion area.

  • When a novice employee is very new to an organisation or to a topic, they are usually very quiet in a community forum. They are still learning the basics, which they get from training and from the community knowledge base, and they spend 100% of their community time watching and reading community discussion. They don’t tend to ask questions on the forum – their questions are still fairly basic, and if they do ask, the answer is usually a version of “read the flipping manual“.
  • After a while, and maybe quite quickly in some cases, the employee starts to face problems and issues that are not in the manual. That’s when they start to ask questions of the Community, and begin to use the Community members themselves as a resource. They move from 100% lurking and reading, to (over time) mostly asking.
  • After a bit more time, the employees begin to find that they themselves can answer the questions of others. They have become practitioners, they understand the practice, and can share the lessons they have learned. This can happen relatively quickly as well – I remember interviewing one guy who was less than 2 years into the company, and a question came up on the community forum which was related to a special study he had just completed.  He answered this successfully, and reported how pleased he was to be able to “feed something back” to the CoP.
  • The more experienced members- now experts in their topic –  may take on a leadership role in the CoP, as core team members, or as subject matter experts, with accountability for teaching and for owning some of the Knowledge Assets of the Community.  However a good expert never stops learning. Only last week I saw, in a busy community forum, an expert asking for feedback, comments and advice on a document she had produced. Even the most advanced expert should spend some time asking, some time answering, and some time teaching.
Now lets map some demographics onto the diagram above. 
Imagine a far-eastern company, with many many young staff, and few experts. Here the bulk of the staff will be in the Red area in the diagram, with a few in the other segments. This CoP will act more like a Teaching CoP, with relatively little discussion and quite a lot of publishing.
Imagine a western engineering company, loaded with baby-boomers. Here a large proportion of the staff are in the blue, yellow and green segments. The bulk of community activity will be about discussion and dialogue, rather than about publishing and reading. 

As always, it’s more complicated than any simple model will allow, and there is no “one size fits all” approach, but different communities of practice may operate in different ways in different settings, largely driven by the experience profile of the community members. 

View Original Source Here.

Why Yammer’s default question is unhelpful

If you agree with me that the greatest value in organisational online discussion comes through answering questions, then Yammer’s default prompt does not help.

“What are you working on?” asks Yammer – as a work-related version of the Facebook question “What’s on your mind”.

As a way of getting people to share work-related activity, that’s a reasonable question, and pretty soon you will find your Yammer stream full of statements like

  • “I’m working on a new proposal”
  • “I’m getting ready to go on holiday”
  • “I’m finishing the assessment report”

For some people, that’s interesting connectivity, that helps them feel connected with co-workers. For others, that’s unwelcome Noise; stuff they didn’t need to know that distracts them from their own work. The risk is that the noise turns people off.

This blog has long championed the use of Knowledge Pull behaviours, and Knowledge seeking.  We know for example that Asking is tougher than sharing, but gives instant results. We know that the more questions that are asked in a Community of Practice, the more successful it is. We know that 75% to 90% of knowledge sharing comes as a response to a request for help. We (or I, at least) believe that an internal knowledge market is best grown through demand rather than through supply. And also  that Facebook is not a good analogue for in-house social media.

If you want to use a product like Yammer for knowledge sharing, then I can’t help thinking there’s got to be a better default prompt – one that drives Pull and not Push; one that develops the habit of Asking.

Maybe something like

“What knowledge do you need to help deliver your work?”
“What can your social network help you with today?”
“What question do you have for your network?”

View Original Source Here.

The role of Asking in Knowledge Management

Most knowledge sharing in our private lives is driven by Asking. Let’s use this in work as well.

ASK

Think about the last time you shared knowledge with one of your friends or family. Maybe it was this morning, or yesterday – maybe you shared advice, a tip or hint, or something you had found out that the other person did not know.

I bet you shared this knowledge bacause you were asked.

  • “Where are the car keys?”
  • “What’s the weather going to do today?”
  • “Are you doing anything tonight”?
That’s the way that private knowledge sharing seems to work; it follows the three rules below.

When do we share?  Most often, when we are asked

Who do we share with? People who ask us

What is preventing us from sharing? Often, nobody is asking (see here to understand how to tell when sharing is broken)

So how do we take these principles into the workplace?

There are several ways in which you can introducing Asking as part of a Knowledge Management framework.

 The first obvious example is in Communities of Practice. The most important and powerful role of CoPs is providing a forum where CoP members can ASK questions of their peers. The forum allows the person who actually needs the knowledge to ask directly, and the answer comes from the members with knowledge to share.  Communities access the long tail of knowledge, and communities work better with a large element of “Knowledge Pull”

The second case is in After Action Reviews. Here someone in the team, such as the team leader, ASKS a series of 5 questions, to elicit the knowledge of the team. This knowledge will be used by the same team to improve their practices, so the knowledge providers and knowledge users are the same team.

The third example is in end-of-project Retrospects. Here the questioning is led by an experienced external facilitator. The process is an asking process – structured, quality assured, and aimed at answering (in advance) the likely questions from future projects.

Asking is the most powerful way to drive knowledge transfer – Pull is more powerful than Push

View Original Source Here.

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