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14 March 2007

If knowledge is expensive, try ignorance

Common Knowledge- How companies thrive by sharing what they know is a book by Nancy Dixon on Knowledge Management with examples, illustrations and case studies on ten organisations from Bechtel to US Army. She begins by stating the three myths about Knowledge Management :one, build it and they will come. two, technology can replace face to face and three, that first you have to create a learning culture.

The reality however is that collecting and storing is not the focus but reuse is the ultimate goal. Technology can only enhance sharing, hence needs to be married to face-to-face interaction; and lastly, bet on exchange impacting the culture rather than waiting for culture to change. The book includes debate on What’s in a name? For it really matters what you call your initiatives for instance, "Lessons learned" was interpreted as mistakes (e.g. of Bechtel-construction sites). The suggestion given is find a term that signifies what is to be accomplished rather than delineating the type or quality of knowledge to be shared. It is better if the emphasis is on outcome rather than the process, where "lessons learned database" means-input what you have learned. Peer Assist says, if you need assistance try this. The theme is- don’t call it knowledge management but link it to business.

“One size does not fit all” hence in KM, who is the intended receiver of effort?; what is the nature of the task? what is the type of knowledge being transferred? Five types or models of knowledge transfer with examples and case studies gives a good idea for people who are building KM processes which serve as a good guideline to which one or which combination will suit the business best. The models of Serial Transfer, Near Transfer, Far Transfer, Strategic Transfer & Expert Transfer are all technical terms hence reading in detail is required. The book provides sufficient questionnaires and guidelines within each section with case examples of companies actually engaged in the task. What I liked best about the book is its structure, it has a prologue-epilogue kind of approach, where the author begins by stating the structure of the book and ends with a kind of wrap-up. And everything else fits neatly within, which I felt made it seem more like a presentation rather than reading a book.

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