10 Things Forbes Wants You to Know About Knowledge Management

Posting has been a challenge lately. We are 4,000 or so volumes into our grand mission to RFID tag, weed, and inventory a 37,000 volume physical collection all at once, and it’s been a struggle. We’ve managed after three weeks to get the entire staff trained (the younger ones are more relaxed with the equipment than the older staff, which is not that big of a surprise. Not because the older ones are older–read: near retirement–but none of them are very relaxed around PCs.) I’ll post more about the details of this project at some point in the future. (Promise!)

Anyway, I clipped this column entitled Ten Things You Need to Know About Knowledge Management from Steve Denning at Forbes.com a few weeks ago in the expectation that I’d be able to poke some vague fun at it at some point. And so I am. But the truth is it’s not bad advice as far as general principles go. It’s long winded, however, so I’m going to just sum up the bullet points.

The essentials are these:

1. Knowledge is infinite, money is not. (Duh!)

2. Knowledge has no intrinsic value. (Of what use is the knowledge of fishing to a man who wants to build a camp fire?)

3. Money spent on non-utilized knowledge is gone. (That’s a bit of a fallacy. The money is gone no matter what the outcome, but you get the idea.)

4. An institutional knowledge base may become a set of blinders. (Remember to look outside the box now and then.)

5. The really interesting stuff is not going to be from your organization. (Diversify!)

6. Effective use of a knowledge base may require exceptional expertise . . .

7.  . . .  and that expertise may evaporate. (Sometimes very suddenly.)

8. The value of knowledge lies in improved outcomes. (See my campfire example on number 2.)

9. What constitutes an improved outcome depends on the organizations’ strategy. (A rod and reel company that intends to develop a client base of fishermen should not try to reach them buy selling fireplaces.)

10. Measure outcomes against the organizational strategy. (Apples to apples.)

Of these tidbits, I’d pay particular attention to the first half of the list. We all want as much as possible to be available for our patrons but can rarely afford more than a few choice subscriptions. But subscriptions from expensive vendors are not useful merely because they’re expensive; they’re important because our patrons need them for their work. If not, then you’re out twenty grand and you won’t get to redeploy those funds until a year from now. Do not be afraid to look to non-traditional vendors for useful additions to your collections.


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