Knowledge management is not primarily about tools. It is primarily about mindset.
Somehow, “knowledge management” seems to be in the air. In the last days, I have discussed the topic three times, and usually the discussion started around the tools. “Microblogging is important” said one, “wikis are great” said somebody else. And then they moved on to wonder why, despite these great tools, helpful content didn’t emerge as quickly as desired.
Upon a closer look, it’s not quite such a surprise anymore, because the tools don’t produce the content. People produce the content, and people tend to not change their approach to information just because on their little screens, the flickering tiny icons changed. Especially, I remember that there used to be colleagues who were afraid of sharing their knowledge. The thinking went something like “if I’m the only one who knows, I’m indispensable”. But this argument doesn’t work anymore. Knowledge is everywhere, now in the age of Google, and in some cases it turned out that the “indispensable” knowledge belonged to a problem the company no longer had.
On the other hand, some of my greatest role models are offering the wealth of their knowledge to the world. This not just refers to the meanwhile huge open source and creative commons movements, who present a fortune in software, pictures, music, text and so on to the public, beyond that, there is a growing range of successful companies who generally publish important knowledge. Whether Google – by offering their main product, search, for free – is a different discussion, as a matter of fact, my main thought was O’Reilly’s OpenBooks, and the more I think about the topic, the more examples come to mind.
Indeed it’s a simple decision to produce helpful content, and the key is a simple question: “Who can benefit from that?” Of course, I hope first of all that one answer to that question is “I can, certainly”, in other words, you occupy yourself only with topics that are important to you. At any rate, for example after a meeting on the way back to the office, a natural window of opportunity presents itself to ask this question: “Who can benefit from that?”, and back at the desk, all people can be notified who should know about it, and you can feed a knowledge management tool of your choice with the new insight, just “quick and dirty”. I have frequently received appreciation from all over the world for such publications, and I enjoyed it.
What I enjoyed most about my recent discussions: all my discussion partners had already done the first step, they joined in and enjoyed the new possibilities of their new tools. Whatever your choice of tools is, join in right away. Steve Jobs had an iPhone, Zuckerberg is using Facebook, Brin and Page are using Google+. In doubt, too much shared information is better than too little.