Bas Reus' quest on self-organization and online collaborative spaces

Knowledge diversity

Posted in online collaborative spaces, self-organization by Bas Reus on April 9, 2010

Today I would like to discuss something about knowledge. The first thing I would like to mention about knowledge, is that there are many understandings about the concept. This post does not try to explain knowledge, nor my view of knowledge. It is a concept that is difficult to grasp. Many research has shown that knowledge is difficult to transfer either, for various reasons. Knowledge is often partly codifiable, and partly (perhaps mostly) tacit. Many companies have tried to codify as much tacit knowledge as possible, assuming that this codified ‘knowledge’ is easy to transfer and easy for others to internalize it. This not only feels unrealistic, research has shown this as well.

Acquiring knowledge is just not possible from just reading books, blogposts, manuals, documentation, etc. Acquiring knowledge is learning and experiencing from codified information and takes much time participating in the practices and getting your hands dirty. Inspired by John Tropea’s post, (and Harold Jarche’s, Rob Paterson’s and Tony Karrer’s as well) I would like to elaborate on that some more. Context is important in knowledge management (is it possible to manage knowledge? or is it outdated? what is it anyway? aren’t we just talking about learning? well, food for thought and perhaps another story…), even as knowledge creating and eventually decision-making. This is very well outlined and written by Chun Wei Choo in his book ‘The Knowing Organization’.

I’d like to explore the concept of ‘Knowledge diversity’ here. Not only because knowledge is experienced in such a diverse way, but because many knowledge workers (I hate these words) are operating in an environment where many disciplines come together. In a place where you are surrounded by people who have different skills than you have, it is less important to share and transfer all that knowledge (if possible at all), it becomes more important to know where to find specific knowledge, if you do not have the skills or resources nearby. If your network is vast and becomes vaster, you might be able to locate resources that can help you out.

The question I ask here implicitly (well, I just externalized it in a way I suppose) is how to organize yourself in an environment where knowledge is located at many places (scattered), and where that knowledge is diverse. You can be quite sure that the person or persons you need are out there, so it should become easier to locate these resources whenever you need them. Is this ‘knowledge management’ (again, a very diffuse term)? Or is it a step to self-organization in an environent where the required ‘knowledge’ is out there?

Assuming that such a scenario is desirable, the next question would be how to reach such a situation. However tempting to explore the latter, I think the former deserves some more attention. Therefore I should be somewhat conservative, make a step backwards and ask:

Are we in an environment where knowledge is diverse (considering people, location and type of knowledge), and is it important/desired to be able to locate this knowledge somehow?

I hope this blogpost leads to making this question better, more relevant, or even obsolete, and can help me to a next step: organize yourself in an environment where knowledge is located at many places (scattered), and where that knowledge is diverse.


4 Responses

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  1. Jon Husband said, on April 9, 2010 at 22:57

    This makes me think that in networks, what and who is at the top of one person’s Knowledge Network is at another level (including the “Everyone Else” level) of another person’s Knowledge Network .. and that the interconnectedness we can all experience / engage in is what makes the more horizontal dynamics more powerful over time.

  2. […] Dit blogartikel was vermeld op Twitter door Harold Jarche, Jon Husband en Learning Academy, Bas Reus. Bas Reus heeft gezegd: @hjarche @johnt @tonykarrer @robpatrob How to organize yourself in an environment where knowledge is diverse? […]

  3. John Tropea said, on April 11, 2010 at 22:35

    Spot on Bas.

    I have a few follow-up posts that can be found on this post, which has some good comments by Arthur Shelley and Chris Rodgers

    My boss once asked me the key KM question that he is always asked…how to find the gems. I think he was referring to sense-making. How do I find information and people in order to do my work?

    I said it’s not search, it’s what we do everyday, we find stuff via people. Social networks and conversation help you be connected and sense-make.

    People also refine and review stuff via blogs, they become your filter.

    I remember Dave Snowden once said that he didn’t have the time to read every cognitive science journal article. And was pleased that he found a blogger that monitored and review these articles, plus he liked what this blogger had to say…this blogger is he’s trust filter, and enables him to keep up on this subject in these times of attention scarcity.

    Anyway, I like how Harold Jarche puts it:

    “…we need to move away from a focus on knowledge transfer and acquisition, an approach rooted in Plato’s academy…we are moving to the world of the sons of Socrates, where dialogue and guidance are key competencies.”

  4. Bas Reus said, on April 12, 2010 at 10:49

    I believe the inserted image in this post is not the best I could have chosen. In networked environments it is not a pyramid, it is yourself in the center of your network. A circle would have been better, with yourself in the center and with multiple overlapping circles for all other persons in the network. The expert could be in any circle, including yourself.

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