Beyond the technical aspects of knowledge management


Often-cited reasons for writing a book remind me of what detectives name as two factors necessary for committing a crime: motive and opportunity. I certainly had a strong motive for writing a book. I had been discussing knowledge sharing and running SAS knowledge flow initiatives for over a decade. Opportunity knocked when my book proposal was accepted in the Wiley and SAS Business Series.

I am frequently asked why I would have written a book on knowledge management (KM) when there are already thousands out there that touch on the topic. I reply that my book looks at the topic from a different angle. First, my book argues that KM is not technical. Knowledge is connected to humans. Technology can support the process, but in the end the human decides to share knowledge. Those who see only the technical aspects of KM might not succeed in the way they hope to.

Second, my book shows that KM is not a dry topic. KM is about humans’ motivation to share and their ability to learn and innovate when their knowledge is combined with that of their colleagues. What is more exciting than that? A number of authors reduce KM to sharing knowledge via "databases." That sounds boring, even to me. After thinking it over, I realized that the term knowledge management is not accurate, in that it indicates that we can manage knowledge. We can’t. What we can manage, however, is the flow of the knowledge from one person to another. So I switched to using the more accurate term knowledge flow management. Now more and more people realize that a technical view of KM is incomplete. They have seen KM projects fail, and they seek answers on how to make them succeed.

Now that Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow: How to Make Knowledge Sharing Work has been out for about a year, I see momentum building. People come up to me after presentations to tell me that my view resonates. They tell me that my approach helps them attack the issues they face in trying to enhance the flow of knowledge within their organizations.

Many organizations include making the best use of knowledge in their missions, but often it stops there. Even though they talk about knowledge being strategic ("the knowledge of our people is our biggest asset"), they do not invest in managing the flow of it. All other asset management functions are covered (especially financial ones), but the most important one is left to flow on its own. The time has come for organizations to consistently manage the knowledge flow process beyond putting a database in front of people and asking them to "share" their knowledge.

To read a free chapter and reviews for this book as well as view an interview with Frank Leistner, visit his author page!


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Frank Leistner

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