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Knowledge Mismanagement

Two interesting perspectives on knowledge management were published online recently. The essays provide thought-provoking bookends to the consideration of how information is used within organizations — and how teams collaborate. In Technology Review, Alex Pentland contends that data mining doesn’t go far enough. Companies need to be “reality mined.”

Two interesting perspectives on knowledge management were published online recently. The essays provide thought-provoking bookends to the consideration of how information is used within organizations — and how teams collaborate. In Technology Review, Alex Pentland contends that data mining doesn’t go far enough. Companies need to be “reality mined.”

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Studies of office interactions indicate that as much as 80 percent of work time is spent in spoken conversation, and that critical pieces of information are transmitted by word of mouth in a serendipitous fashion. Commonplace wearable technology can be used to characterize the face-to-face interactions of employees — and to map out a companys de facto organization chart. The new reality-mined data allow us to cluster people on the basis of profiles generated from an aggregate of conversation, e-mail, location, and Web data.

While it seems a little spooky to think that all of my conversations and personal interactions in the office could be persistently recorded, analyzed, and applied in other areas of my work life (Big Brother, anyone?), the idea got me thinking. If this information weren’t necessarily available to my employers or managers, how could I use a persistent audio and video recording day to day? You know what, I think I could do a lot with such a recording. Imagine being able to record a meeting or an interview, tapping your side to set buffer markers for content you want to access later.

On the flip side of that idea is “JibbaJabba”‘s blog entry “Overcoming a Clenched Fist Knowledge Culture.” Taking a look at how top-down approaches to knowledge sharing might or might not affect grassroots efforts to share information, the writer makes the case that information will be shared at the frontlines regardless of how hierarchical or bureaucratic a company is.

Whats different with where people connect on a personal level is that they do so without having to route themselves through a process or system that was created by upper management without looking into what people actually need or how they work. They do so because they need to and because without the interference of a CIO or management-chosen system, they can control the knowledge creation and flow. The difference in tools is that because theyre closely held and controlled, they may have a better chance of being used and sustained by the people who need them. They may also die when theyre no longer needed. This should be natural, if you take the view of the company as an information ecology.

That’s not too far afield from traditional thinking about KM, but the overarching idea has merit. Information will be shared — knowledge will be created — regardless of colleagues’, leaders’, or companies’ efforts to clamp down on interorganizational sharing.

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