Organisations should focus more on connecting people and building relationships, and less on collecting and storing content for possible re-use.
That’s according to Dianna Roberts, manager information centre at Opus International Consultants. Dianna says that when it comes to information and knowledge, many organisations often use the terms interchangeably although they are two very different things.
“Information does not change its context and is static,” she says, “while knowledge is all about context and changes constantly. Knowledge cannot be managed as it is fluid and continues to evolve organically. If captured it becomes information – or just a series of hard facts.”
According to Dianna, what can be managed is the creation of an environment or systems where knowledge can be shared, encouraged to grow, and made available for further use and continued improvement. This concept can be referred to as knowledge sharing as it utilises human interaction for creating, re-using and re-creating knowledge. To remain competitive, companies also need exposure to ideas from outside the organisation, enabling internal and external information to be combined to create new knowledge.
Technology is a vehicle for storing information and for enabling connections between people, but it must be a tool that will meet people’s actual needs, is easy to use and supports innovation. Dianna says databases of ‘best practice’ or ‘lessons learned’ are not always the best solution. “Many companies have invested heavily in creating such databases only to find they are rarely used and date quickly.”
Archives of project files can be part of a solution. While it’s not usual to build the same bridge twice or repeat a building design, the people who were involved can provide valuable insight.
Knowledge networks are more effective than knowledge warehouses because people supply context and exchange views whereas stored knowledge is simply a static record.
Dianna says people are the true solution. They ask the questions and provide the answers to create and use new knowledge. “Enabling the generation of new knowledge is more valuable than codifying or managing old knowledge which may have a limited shelf life. “Technology enables organisations to capture and store information, but observation and conversation transform information into knowledge.”