Monday, September 16, 2013


Spock's Vulcan Mind-Meld from Star Trek.
Photo from
Précis of Storing the Mind, Minding the Store 

This is an online article at The article is a synopsis of a discussion held by a panel of experts in information technology and knowledge management. This panel discussed the value of knowledge management and how to effectively achieve knowledge sharing in organizations. 

Barriers to knowledge management and sharing knowledge were discussed, including job insecurities and the breakdown of communication between employees and employers. Employees have to feel secure in the idea that sharing knowledge is beneficial to both them and the organization. Suggestions on how to create a culture of sharing knowledge included reward systems, building climates of trust, and reinforcing similar values so employees can bond and realize there are 
mutual benefits in sharing information. 

Knowledge management was compared to Star Trek's Mr. Spock's Vulcan mind meld as a way to consider knowledge management as "knowledge sharing" or "experience transfer." Essentially, an organizations wants to capture the best practices, and that it is all about the human experience. Knowledge is "just-in-time information" and the action on that information turns it into knowledge. 

In terms of infrastructure, the panel discussed the danger of overload when people receive irrelevant information in an organization. The panel discussed the dangers of grand plans where knowledge management is implemented across an entire organization with a loss on the focus on what is the most important knowledge the organization should leverage, and then determine the best ways to share that knowledge. 

An organization must implement operational ways to capture the most important knowledge and not just expect that employees will share it willingly. One element to consider when creating an operational system includes a good search/indexing-type tool so information can be located quickly. Another element was a customized interface designed to address and overcome common problems when sharing information. A third element was external sharing since some organizations may not only need to have internal knowledge management, but also share knowledge externally with their clients. 

It was pointed out that knowledge can be viewed as both explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is what is held in an organization's database and tacit knowledge includes all the things we know but cannot explain. Capturing the tacit knowledge of experienced employees is the challenge. It was mentioned that at one time many companies had mentors and people who may have stopped doing the work, but could help other people learn the work. Many organizations deemed these people as "unproductive" and they were let go. Thus, organizations lost many knowledgeable people in the process, and while younger employees possess or have access to the explicit knowledge, there is no one left to teach them to tacit knowledge.

Précis of Discover what you Know (Lotus Corp.)

This dynamic video uses words and sounds to highlight key elements in knowledge management, and how knowledge management not only captures what employees know, but also creates productive communication and collaboration within the workplace. Below are some key words and phrases that popped out for me as I watched the video:

  • Experience
  • Sharing what works
  • Capture what they know
  • Ripple effect
  • Impact
  • Create places for people to share work
  • Start conversations
  • Context to information
  • Collaborate
  • Brainstorm
  • Build communities
  • Filter
  • Analyze
  • Develop
  • Distribute
  • Manage with knowledge

My thoughts

One aspect of knowledge management that was reinforced for me was the notion of knowledge as experience and the need to capture the best practices in teaching and learning experiences. Another important discussion point was on tacit and explicit knowledge. One area that has continually concerned me both in previous work and in my teaching career is how can organizations transfer the knowledge that usually walks out the door when someone retires, transfers or departs for "greener pastures"? 

Distinguishing knowledge between tacit and explicit helped me to better understand the issues surrounding this challenge along with the discussion on mentors and apprenticeships. Lately, it seems the buzzword in the workplace is optimization. It would appear from the discussion panel "Storing the Mind, Minding the Store," this mentality also had a healthy existence over a decade ago. One of the problems with optimization is that it tends to focus on numbers and what employees are producing. Yet if some employees are mentoring other employees this should also be viewed as productive because knowledge management should be viewed as something tangible and dynamic as outlined in the video, Discover What you Know

Additional Resources

Knowledge Management in Education is a video that summarizes some of the benefits of sharing knowledge, particularly how it can improve the learning experience for students. While a short video, I find it reminds us that the reason we invest in knowledge management is because it improves the learning experiences for our students and helps us to grow and improve as teachers. Additionally, the video is an extension of a worldwide online support community that promotes knowledge management in education. They also have a group on Facebook. The site offers a number of links to publications, including research articles as well as blog reflections.

Mindmeld Tools explores various online tools that can be used for knowledge sharing. An online platform can be an effective way to help capture some knowledge and enhance the knowledge management experience in the workplace.

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