One more reason to be cautious of measurements as a proxy for progress

Want to read a "great parable about instrumentation, measurement, knowledge, and epistemology"? Then read Jon Udell's fascinating post about how we digest raw vs cooked food:

Path dependent reform

The New Yorker has a fantastic article about the history of universal health coverage across the world.

Set in the context of Obama's health reform bill, of course, it makes the excellent point that where we have come from determines where we can go next:

Handling Mistakes

Handling Mistakes

I don't consider this matrix to be definitive, but rather an attempt to provoke thought about how we try to influence or control complex systems.

In particular, there is an implicit assumption in the diagram that for optimal functioning of a system, the correct level of control must be chosen. Overconstraining a system can lead to stagnation and productivity loss, while underconstraining risks catastrophic breakdowns.

What other tools are at the disposal of KM and management generally for exerting influence and control?

Adjusted plus/minus in the workplace

One of the more interesting stories to emerge in the past 12 months from an unusual source is the use of an "adjusted plus/minus" metric to measure the true worth of individuals to the team in basketball.

This concept first came to my attention via Tom Davenport, who suggested that HR could use a similar metric in business.

The new knowledge consensus

Knowledge Management is still a young discipline that often suffers from a lack of consensus about its meaning and goals. To avoid holy wars, much of KM focuses on the "what" and the "how" of KM (ie immediate activities to undertake) while being weak on the "why" (long term objectives). Without a strong "why" though, it has been easy for skeptics to dismiss the importance of KM.

But I'm beginning to sense a shift in the wind.

With an increased recognition of the complex nature of organisations, there is a turn away from command and control approaches to managing knowledge by demanding individual changes in behavior. Instead, people are embracing a more holistic and integrated view.

When organisational and community knowledge becomes indivisible, focus shifts from whether any individual "possesses" knowledge to how well patterns of organisational interaction act to enhance institutional learning and preserve institutional memory.

The success of institutional knowledge is measured like any other knowledge: by how well it helps the institution survive by enabling it to be adaptable, resilient and innovative.

Chief Knowledge Officers - are they needed?

Knowledge Management staff often suffer from being marginalised in organisations. In most cases, this is probably not intentional or malicious. However, it's a common consequence of KM staff being placed in areas without strategic clout (eg the corporate library) or where the strategic focus of the area is elsewhere (eg HR, ICT). In 2008, Patrick Lambe provided some details about the "brutish" consequences of this marginalisation.

As a result, there has been renewed interest by the KM community in organisations establishing Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) positions to ensure that KM thinking gets included at the strategic level.

The logic of lists

What makes lists of items so compelling?

The "list" article was first perfected by the magazine industry -- particularly beauty magazines (Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, etc) and music/film magazines (Rolling Stone, Filmink etc). But it's now spreading into the mainstream media and is also very common on the Internet. There are now whole sites dedicated to producing N thing lists such as (WARNING: clicking this link may waste a lot of your time).

Chasing the Rabbit, Sharing the Knowledge

Bob Lewis is an IT columnist who I find consistently worth reading because of his clear and dispassionate insight into how organisational politics really works.

He is the ultimate pragmatist, with a low tolerance for cheap insights and bullshit. So I was pleased to see that he recently finished reading Chasing the Rabbit by Steven Spear and found it worthwhile.

Organisational flow

There's a great story in The Boston Globe about work being done to improve a children's hospital's capacity to help people without a single additional dollar being spent.

The thing that really struck me was that I'm sure everyone in the hospital was genuinely trying to deliver the best service to their patients:

Three most important responsiblities of Knowledge Managers

UPDATE Nov 2015: If you are interested in an ongoing conversation about Knowledge Management and how to apply it, please check out our newly launched online magazine RealKM!

I consider Arthur Shelley to be one of the most successful KM practitioners (as compared to consultants or theorists) in Australia. I find his stories of working for many years at Cadbury in KM and making a real and long-lasting difference to be inspirational.