Why Knowledge Management needs empowerment
Knowledge management needs empowerment – Knowledge provides empowerment.
There is a close link between knowledge and empowerment. Let me illustrate this with two scenarios.
Betty is writing a policy paper. She looks online for ideas, and comes across some busy discussions from a similar organisation in another part of the world. Intrigued, she gets in touch with the people in the discussion, and receives some really useful experience, stories, tips and hints that should really improve her policy. Excited, she updates her policy paper with this new knowledge, and takes it to her boss, Johann. “I’m sorry Betty, I am going to take this out” Johann tells her. “We’ve never done it like this – it seems rather risky. Let’s stick to what we know, shall we?” Betty leaves the meeting, dejected.
Ben is writing a policy paper. Ben’s boss, Jutta, comes in and say “Bob, I want to you take a fresh view here. I want a policy that is going to make a big impact, and I want you to find first out how others do it”. Bob is excited by this challenge. He looks online for ideas, and comes across some busy discussions from a similar organisation in another part of the world. Intrigued, he gets in touch with the people in the discussion, and gets some really useful experience, stories, tips and hints that should really improve the policy. “Good work, Bob” says Jutta. “We’ve never done it like this before, but there’s enough knowledge and experience here to suggest this might be a good way forward.”.
Betty is disempowered. She has the knowledge but is not allowed to apply it. She probably won’t bother to look for ideas from elsewhere any more, she will just do what her boss expects her to do – play it safe. In Betty’s case, the lack of empowerment stifles Knowledge Management, as she was unable to apply the knowledge she found.
Bob is empowered. He is empowered to look for knowledge and to use it, and the knowledge he finds enables him to write a better policy paper. You could say that the knowledge he finds also empowers him, in an intellectual sense, to write a better paper and so deliver a better policy. In Bob’s case, he was empowered to deliver a better policy, and the knowledge he found enabled him to deliver.