Saturday, May 16, 2009

Knowledge Maturity ...

Very interesting post by Nick Milton from Knoco ... this one is about how knowledge within the eco-system (here i would refer to this as the eco-system within the organizational context) evolves from one level of maturity to another, and the factors which influence this knowledge maturity. There are two reasons i find this interesting ... One, this is quite an interesting description of how knowledge matures within a system, and also, the correlation between the maturing of knowledge, and the maturing of the system as a whole. Though i believe that most systesm are knowledge-based (even hunting is based on the knowledge about the forest, the habits of the animals, and a number of other factors i dont have any expertise about), which would point us to the natural corollary that the maturity of knowledge is intricately linked to the maturity of the system (or organization, if thats the context you are referring to).

Which is an interesting aspect of organizations (something which not a lot of people talk about ... the assumption is that manufacturing industry is purely to do with operating some machines, creating some output products, and so on ... purely mundane activities, having nothing to do with knowledge). So, in a nutshell, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the evokution of the organization is based on knowledge, which can be harnessed using some of the concepts of KM, and this evolution hastened greatly by applying some of the underlying principles of knowledge sharing, or rather, of getting the right form of knowledge from the right source to the right destination, at the right time, to solve the appropriate problems. Take this one step further, to innovation ... but thats another story.

Coming back to the post, the thing which catches the eye is the schematic which Nick has used for defining the path of the evolution of knowledge ... The the creation of knowledge begins from innovation (the discovery of fire? ... or maybe, the invention of the wheel?), to the stage where this knowledge is common, and is available as part of the day-to-day functioning of the system. In other words, from niche availability to general availability. From the point where something new is discovered (or invented?), to the point that it gets codified in the form of documents, knowledge is traversing a journey which is moving from the niche to the generally available.

However, this is where the most important part of the map comes ... that knowledge which is assumed to be embedded in the infrastructure, while being a part of the system itself, is not a product of the system, but rather, the product of the knowledge created by people. And this is something which i try to make clear ... that all knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit. In other words, there is no knowledge which is created by the system ... Rather, knowledge is created by the people who form the system, and the system can turn specific knowledge into generic knowledge, and ensure that it is available, and followed, by embedding it in the processes which make up the system.

And this is where i would like to add something ... Rather than looking at this entire process as being linear, i would like to look at this process as being circular. Lets look at it this way ... in the story Nick tells, the knowledge originates from individuals (Lewis and Clarke), is propagated through the system through a number of methods, and is used by individuals (the ultimate knowledge solution, according to Nick). Which brings me to a very important point ...

Knowledge is essentially created by individuals, and knowledge is essentially utilized by individuals. Organizations simply play the role of facilitators, building the systems and processes to get this knowledge from the individual who creates the knowledge (or has it, through some way), to the individual who needs the knowledge.

This raises the question, of course, of the role the organization, or other systems play in knowledge propagation. More about that later ... for the moment, lets just try to assimilate this, and the implications of this. One major implication, of course, is the fact that knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit in terms of its origin, and it definitely tacit in terms of its utility.

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