The Real Work of Knowledge Management

We really do live in the Information Age, a revolutionary era when the availability of information is changing everything. Nothing is the same since the world was networked together and information became instantly accessible. Information has destroyed boundaries, borders, boxes, distance, roles, and rules. The availability of information has dissolved the walls of repressive governments, secretive executives, and is creating the greatest mass empowerment of all time.

Knowledge Management is a survival skill

In this time of profound chaos and newness, we still have to do our work. But what is our work? For those in human resources information management, there is relentless pressure to find ways for technology and people to support organizations through this tumultuous time. Organizations need to be incredibly smart, fast, agile, responsive. They need to respond and make smart decisions at ever-increasing speed, even as the unintended consequences of speedy decisions flare up in a nanosecond and keep leaders focused only on fire-fighting. The old days of "continuous improvement" seem as leisurely as a picnic from the past. In this chaotic and complex twenty-first century, the pace of evolution has entered warp speed, and those who can't learn, adapt, and change moment to moment simply won't survive.

Many of these organizational needs are bundled together today under the banner of Knowledge Management. The organization that knows how to convert information into knowledge, that knows what it knows, that can act with greater intelligence and discernment-these are the organizations that will make it into the future. We all know this: our organizations need to be smarter. Knowledge Management (KM) therefore should be something eagerly accepted by leaders, it should be an incredibly easy sell. Yet KM appears at a time when all organizations are battered and bruised by so much change, entering the Information Age after decades of fads, by investments in too many organizational change efforts that failed to deliver what was promised. These experiences have exhausted us all, made many cynical, and left others of us worried that we'll never learn how to create organizations that can thrive in this century.

Unlike past organizational change efforts, Knowledge Management is truly a survival issue. Done right, it can give us what we so desperately need-organizations that act with intelligence. Done wrong, we will, like lemmings, keep rushing into the future without using our intelligence to develop longer-term individual and organizational capacity. To continue blindly down our current path, where speed and profits are the primary values, where there is no time to think or relate, is suicidal.


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