Knowledge management fails because it puts the company cart before the employee horse

Cart horse.png

Let me get this straight:  Companies implement knowledge management systems such as document repositories, blogs and wikis, so they can capture and manage employee knowledge, right?

I get the goal, believe it is crucial to succeed in our knowledge economy, but are employees capturing and managing their own knowledge?  Seems to me that we need to have that in place first.

The knowledge of most people, myself included, is scattered across paper piles, computer files and brain cells.  It’s on desk surfaces, in file cabinets, on sticky notes and yellow pads.  It’s buried deep within multi-level file folders on multiple systems – some local, some cloud, increasingly on numerous devices.  It is in bookmarks, email attachments, Evernote and a growing host of other apps.   The reality is that our facts, findings, ideas, IP, questions and conclusions are scattered and disconnected. 

And now the company wants us to create something for the corporate repository, blog or wiki.  Presumably not the scattered mess described above, but some bottom-line synthesis of what we know on key topics that is accessible and useable.

I don’t have that for myself, do you?  This is a prefatory problem that needs to be addressed.  This isn’t just a matter of contributing what we already have.  I could contribute my entire hard drive and it would be of no value, I can barely find stuff there.  This is a synthesis request/need.

I use a formula to explain knowledge management failure, call it Burge’s law:

     Personal benefit

     ----------------------   =  Participation rate

     Communal effort

Repositories, blogs, wikis all have miserably low participation rates because companies fail to appreciate the dynamics of this equation.  Synthesizing knowledge into a bottom-line format that others will find useful is really hard, if it was easy we’d do it for ourselves more often. 

Plugging starbucks cards or gamification techniques into numerator above is not going to move the needle.  It’s certainly not going to generate the rich knowledge from smart people we seek.

Corporations are not going to effectively capture and manage employee knowledge until employees can effectively capture and manage their own knowledge. 

What do you think?