In 1997, Elliott Masie included Knowledge Management, or KM, in his annual top ten trends list. He wrote, “In 1998, there will be at least a dozen new buzzwords. One phrase that WILL impact training and learning professionals is Knowledge Management. This phrase is now on the lips and organizational charts of the big six accounting and consulting companies, as well as key players like IBM and EDS.” Though there certainly was a great deal of buzz, effort, and money spent, KM never fully or easily integrated into the T&D/OD nomenclature, let alone, best practices. Much of this was due to turf wars between IT and a variety of departments, including corporate libraries.
Let’s fast forward to 2014. As organizations struggle to keep employee knowledge and skills current and to remain lean, they have turned to a variety of options, including informal learning, social networks, and coaching. Thus, KM is making a comeback and this time, it looks as if it’s here to stay. ASTD’s 2013 update of its competency model includes KM as one of the ten Areas of Expertise (AOE). The 2004 model—this is seven years after Masie’s prediction– merely listed ‘Managing Organizational Knowledge’ as an AOE; not the quite the same thing.
Per the ASTD web site, KM involves the ability to “Capture, distribute, and archive intellectual capital to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration.” But what does that mean on a practical level? How do we ‘manage’ knowledge and intellectual capital? When we think of non-instructional interventions or even instructional interventions, do we automatically think about KM? We should.
What KM Looks Like
Many of us working in T&D/OD in the 1990’s remember the plethora of Lotus Notes databases containing intellectual capital. Departments, even projects, had their own databases. The mantra of ‘Knowledge is Power’ was everywhere. Unfortunately, the databases were not maintained, not centrally managed, and difficult to search. Consequently, they fell by the wayside. But newer technologies have given a boost to realizing the dreams of earlier-generation KM. “Web 2.0 technologies allow people to connect to each other to enhance collaborative learning; and wikis, knowledge management systems, and more allow workers to find the knowledge and learning they need, when they need it.” (Estep, p. 30). For example, countless organizations utilize Microsoft’s SharePoint platform to create and maintain web pages.
Accenture often ties KM to customer service initiatives. Accessing information—policies, procedures, and so forth—instantaneously can indeed improve customer service. On a micro level, KM encompasses job or work aids. On a macro level, KM intersects or perhaps is a vehicle of organizational learning.
KM and Job Descriptions?
Though KM has gained a strong foothold in organizations, particularly large organizations, it appears to be much slower in entering requirements for T&D/OD positions. A recent search of the ASTD Job Bank on the keyword ‘knowledge management’ resulted in only a few hits. For example, an Instructional Design Manager position at American Express included the following requirement: “Share thought leadership on the design of the new knowledge management platform being built in Salesforce.com.” A Learning Design & Development Manager position at T. Rowe Price stressed that: “The manager will leverage internal and external resources to create a roadmap for learning and knowledge management to deliver tangible and predictable outcomes.”
What does all this mean?
George Mason University is now offering a Master of Science degree in Organization Development and Knowledge Management. Though KM is now an AOE in the ASTD Competency Model, there is no established ASTD Community of Practice for this AOE. Clearly though, we must keep KM in mind as our field evolves.
How do you see KM playing a role in your organization?
How do you envision integrating KM into performance interventions?
Estep, T. (2008). The evolution of the training profession. In Beich, E. (Editor). ASTD handbook for Workplace learning professionals. ASTD Press.
For more information on key concepts in this blog post, see the following: