Much talk has been made over the past 10 years about “knowledge workers” and our “knowledge society” and “knowledge is power,” but often the efforts to implement knowledge management in organizations fails. With a simple voice-based tool and a proven data gathering methodology, you can implement a successful KM system in your organization.
First you need a voice-based tool that will enable all involved in the organization in which KM is being applied to speak their minds openly, regularly, and candidly. Knowledge from all over the organization has to be turned loose and enabled to flow into the central system by voice. And this gathering tool or system has to be voice-based (not keyboard based or group meeting based), to be simple and intuitive and to gather accurate, complete, and current knowledge. People love to talk and they all have cell phones, so the voice-based tool is natural and will, therefore, be used by everyone (no user adoption problems here). You can have 100% participation.
Second, for every project to which KM is being applied, you need a two-step sequencing methodology for information gathering:
1. At the beginning of a project, the methodology should privilege DIVERGENCE, or the gathering of information from everyone, everywhere. Each person should respond from his/her own office, with no meetings or general and previous discussions. Start with an email with a general description of what knowledge is wanted, and then open the phone channels up for massive input from everywhere. “Fair Process” should pertain, which is that everyone’s thinking is respected and expected during this divergent time. From the President/CEO to the maintenance people, everyone involved in the project and decision should be given a voice, and each voice should have equal value. At this time, no decisions have been made, everything is open and up for discussion. No power plays or ego trips are operating to co-opt or derail the KM process in these early stages of project thinking. No powerful big talker is allowed to take over a meeting and dominate the thinking and intimidate others. No timid but thoughtful person is cowed and pushed into silence. DIVERGENCE is the wonderful energy of intellectual thinking every company is capable of, but the tool to gather it must be voice-based not keyboard based or meeting discussion based.
2. Then, as the project progresses and decisions need to be made, the KM leaders should shift the sequencing methodology for information gathering to CONVERGENCE, or the narrowing and forming of the information into a solution or decision. The literature on strategic thinking makes clear that convergence is the major enemy of thought at the beginning of a project – the KM leaders cannot allow the thinking to converge too early or too quickly. Stay out, stay wide, stay open just as long as possible. When everyone has spoken, when those thoughts have been transcribed and given back to everyone to read, and when they have all spoken a second time and those data are transcribed and given out for everyone to read, then, more than likely, the natural tendency of the human mind will take over and the entire organization will being the process of CONVERGENCE – narrowing down, honing in on a resolution.
“Ah Ha! I see! That is it! That is exactly right!”
If the process of DIVERGENCE has used first and has been allowed to play out with exuberance and energy across all players in the project, then, as the CONVERGENCE goes forward, everyone increasingly will “see” or “feel” the rightness of the solution that is forming.
It is left to the ultimate decision makers finally to form and state the decision or give the solution, but by then everyone will know what the driving issues have been and why the decision was made. Everyone has spoken his/her mind and that is of paramount significance to the success of the process and of the buy-in when the decision is made. This is not to say everyone will agree, nor should the decision makers wait until everyone does (how long is forever?).
The process has been performed correctly and Fair Process has been followed. Those responsible make the decision with confidence and courage and march on!