ILD 831 WEEK 3 POST – RAY R.

Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management

As I reflected on Weinberger’s concept that knowledge lives in the network rather than in books or people’s heads, it eventually made sense to me. There is so much knowledge in existence today that there is no way it can all live inside one person’s head. We are living in the era where we don’t need to memorize a bunch of data or facts. We can look them up, as needed. Of course that may make many in academic circles cringe. But I don’t mean that we don’t need to continue learning and even memorizing some material. As I reflect back at the knowledge that was available back in the 80’s, when I graduated from high school, for example, information was not readily available.  If I was curious about a movie that I had seen, reviews for a movie I was considering seeing, or an actor from that movie that I wanted to look up, there was not an easy way to do this. Now, with the advent of the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com), I can have that information within seconds. Earlier this year when my mom was diagnosed with small-cell lymphoma, if it had happened many years ago I would either have to learn all I could from the doctors and nurses or spend many hours in a library researching exactly what this was and its prognosis. Nowadays within an hour I am able to easily read many articles on the topic and learn a great deal about this type of cancer, assuming I sift correctly through what is fact and what is not.

As Nancy Dixon (2009) discussed, knowledge management takes this a step further and is concerned with how to make use of collective knowledge within an organization. Translating that into my life, I see how organizations have progressed from having small amounts of information years ago, to having a lot of disparate information, to making use of this collective knowledge in some way. I don’t believe many (or any?) organizations have perfected this use of information yet, but we are making strides towards that.

In the Air Force we used to have many, loosely organized, “knowledge management” portals called Community of Practice websites (AFMC, 2006). Many organizations and even subsections of organizations had their own sites and were free to hang any information that the personnel saw fit. More and more organizations were using this method, so a lot of information was out there, but it was very difficult to remember where to go to get it. Over time this network grew to over 19,000 Communities of Practice. In 2010 all users received an internal memo saying that funding for these Community of Practice sites had been terminated and they would be shut down effective May 14th, 2011. Because of this, an alternative was needed. Microsoft Sharepoint quickly became the alternative because it was already bought and paid for by the military. At Offutt AFB the leadership systematically organized the Sharepoint sites so they followed a logical hierarchy and structure, whereas the former Communities of Practice were haphazard and did not follow much of a structure. If people can find and access the Offutt Sharepoint site, for example, they can navigate down to any subordinate organization’s Sharepoint site.

Unfortunately the use of the Community of Practice sites and the Sharepoint sites have not necessarily solved the organization of information in a logical way. Many of the sites have turned into repositories of outdated and irrelevant information. Often the original administrators of the site have left the organization and nobody took over the duties. In other cases, there is too much information on the site and the administrator was not or is not skilled in any kind of website design to make the information flow very intuitive. Additionally, it is hard to know where exactly to go for certain information, which often renders the sites useless. We still have a long way to effectively use knowledge management in many organizations, including the military.

Ray R.

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8 thoughts on “ILD 831 WEEK 3 POST – RAY R.

  1. Nice post and good example, Ray. One of Weinberger’s earlier books was EVERYTHING IS MISCELLANEOUS, in which he differentiated how different knowledge management in a library or on the web are. In a library, a book can only exist in one place, and there are library coding systems to mark that spot. On the web, the same information can exists in thousands of places at the same time.

    I use Diigo – a social bookmarking site – to bookmark web pages I find – and after 6 years of use, I have nearly 7,000 pages tagged. The beauty of Diigo is that if I find a web article on teen use of Snapchat, I can tag it with “snapchat”, “socialmedia”, “teenSMuse”, and so forth. When I go looking for it, it is easy to find (for me), as I set up the card catalog!

    Sharepoint is more hierarchical, but one wonders if a messier system might be easier to use.

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  2. Ray,

    Your post helped give me some context for Communities of Practice. It also helped me understand how important it is for these communities to remain active, otherwise they will house old information that is no longer useful and could in fact create false knowledge. From your perspective, were they ever functional and beneficial to you in your work? How did you utilize them, and what types of things were you looking for? Did you contribute to the Communities of Practice websites or Sharepoint sites, or only draw from the expertise found within them?

    Will

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    1. Will,
      The Communities of Practices were functional, to a certain extent. If I needed some information, I knew it was out there somewhere on a Community of Practice site. The first problem was to figure out WHICH site to find it on. If I could narrow that down, I was partially there. But then the problem was WHERE to find it within the site. Since there was no standard on each site, I would often have to dig through a lot of folders and subfolders to find something. The place that a person put the information in the first place probably made sense at the time to their frame of mind, but not necessarily to mind. So it was often an exercise in futility trying to find a document.
      I did contribute to some of the sites and also drew information from the sites. But most people were not contributors and most of the sites were locked down so a person had to be given special permission to even post information. Good questions.
      Ray

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  3. I, like you believe that organizational knowledge and best practices are a necessity in businesses. When employees leave for greener pastures or other reasons, their knowledge and experiences, unfortunately, depart with them. This knowledge is vital to the continued efficiency of the organization. As you noted, after confusion with previous knowledge management (KM) systems, SharePoint became the go-to tool for many organizations (including the military). As a former government contractor, I can vouch for its troubles. Reminiscent of other (would be) KM systems, it had a number of deficiencies, which detracted from its subsequent usage. Subsequently, how would revitalize current KM practices?
    Kevin

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  4. Ray,

    You bring up an interesting point that in my experience of school leadership in two places, Orange County CA and Riverside County CA, I do not see any discussion or tendency to address and to organize the growing capacity of knowledge for smooth operations. Unfortunately, I still only witness the competitive workplace of who knows who and who knows what more than the next person for promotion. That frustrates me because it distracts school leaders from our primary purpose of leaders collaborating to make schools the best place possible for students to learn. We need to fold digital information and organization into the classroom as a way to keep our students feeling succesful.

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  5. Ray,
    Having the opportunity to discuss professional matters with many people in the military through this Creighton EdD program has started to break down the presupposition I once had that the military must be the most organized of all professional organizations. It sounds to me as though the breakdown in knowledge management is frustrating, but that there is also an opportunity wide open for someone to fill that role. In my opinion, this could even make an interesting topic for dissertation work. To me, your situation is almost opposite of what I experience in the field of education. Knowledge management in education needs to be more focused on filtering the extensive information, especially the “experiential knowledge” discussed by Dixon. Both of our experiences require solutions, and I think it will be our task as leaders to help manage this information, because there may not always necessarily be a person to fill that role for us.

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