Knowledge Management (KM) isn’t something an organisation needs to “get” – every human individual and group already has KM.
We have it built into our DNA and evolution has kitted our brains out with KM – out of the box.
Art already frames very correctly in his question that we tend to think about KM in terms of a “discipline”, and to be sure a praxis or discipline is what it is in corporate terms, and it isn’t something that we need to buy or get, but something that we either do well or badly, and which will either tend to be more productive in terms of our chosen objectives, or less so.
You don’t need to buy KM, and no software vendor can ever sell you KM, but you can buy tools or consulting or help in improving how you do your KM.
You can also structure your organisation in ways that enhance your KM, or degrade it, and your individual behaviour in specific and corporate behaviour in general will either lead to beneficial KM results, or less so.
Consider this for example:
HR is not normaly considered part of KM, but if your HR department places hurdles in the way of job-seekers, has “no-reply” emails, and labours under the misguided belief that they should hide from applicants and force them into a labyrinth of application processes and forms that demand registration with arcane password rules – then you will have a handicap in the struggle to attract, recruit, and keep people with good intellectual attributes. As Dawkins explains – where there are replicators in an ecosystem and where contention exists for resources and benefits, and there is variation amongst them, there will be natural selection and those which are less able to compete will tend to die off.
Right off the bat you will have a KM approach that will act as a detrimental evolutionary force, and one that will reduce your organisation’s chances of survival.
Two KM behaviours will then come into play:
– Is your organisation aware
– Can your organisation learn
If you systematically blind yourself to information that there is a problem (such as noreply emails, or not giving personal contact info), then again there is a KM behaviour that will be an evolutionary negative and tend over time to kill your organisation.
Likewise, even if your organisation senses the error, but fails to incorporate learning behaviors to correct not just the error but the causes of the error, then there is another KM behaviour that will be added to the probability of demise.
Again, we all “do” KM, the issue is whether how we do it leads to positive or negative outcomes
*See also Argyris on single and double-loop learning
** See Ari de Geuss on learning and corporate survival