The Velocity of Knowledge in Flight

“I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.― Mark Twain

Knowledge in flight – faster flight

As you focus on knowledge in flight, you see the power of accelerating the sharing of knowledge.  You also start to be able to see where knowledge has value and is moving.  Focusing on these movements pushes us to think about how we can accelerate the systems of the flow of knowledge into and through our organisation.  Savings of time, waste and rework arise when knowledge can move quickly to where it is most needed.
Nobody wants to accelerate the velocity of knowledge as speed for speed’s sake.  If anything one of the challenges of the digital age is we have to much quick data and information.  Instead, we need to accelerate the effective use of knowledge to create additional value across the organisation.  To do so, we will need to accelerate the sourcing, sharing and the practical application of knowledge.
How to accelerate sourcing, sharing and use of knowledge?
  • Map expertise and tacit knowledge: Tangible knowledge is increasingly searchable.  However too many talents are hidden inside people’s heads.  Do you know all the Postgraduate degrees that your team has?  What about their blogs, conferences, memberships and followers? Networks, skills and experience may not align with roles or responsibilities
  • Reward frequent flyers: Encourage people to share all of their expertise and to explain aloud the tacit knowledge to benefit others.  Track successful contributions back to source & give credit.  Celebrate people’s talents and reward their many contributions beyond their roles.  Build this practice into your organisational culture & systems.
  • Increase flight connections:  The better connected the networks of knowledge in your organisation and your organisation to others the more ways there are for knowledge to flow.  Work to network your centres of excellence, gurus, communities of practice internally and externally. If you use an enterprise social network or external social networks focus on building following and using @mentioning to add new connections and trace paths to knowledge.  Importantly this also incease the opportunities for serendipitous meetings to add value.
  • Build flight paths & schedules:  You travel faster on paths that are mapped in advance and where your path is managed for you.   If there are common requests or known experts, make those paths easier to navigate.  An operating rhythm of sharing allows everyone to plan and participate in a consistently level of the activity.  It may also mean getting slow moving traffic or lower value out of the high traffic routes.  Regular moderated Q&A sessions or knowledge cafes can be a great way to deliver this rhythm in an easy way.
  • Manage delays:  Some times a stop-over allows the overall journey to go faster.  Include time for thought, reflection, planning, documenting, feedback, learning, sharing, collaborating and addressing issues in execution.
  • Reroute flights: Avoid single points of failure for the flow of knowledge in your organisation.  Who else knows and could help if something goes wrong?  What other ways can people access this knowledge?  How do you share jams (leave, large projects, heavy workloads, etc) publicly to let people route around the issue themselves?
  • Cancel flights quickly:   Mark Twain’s quote above is amusing but it underlies a truth.  Organisations which have a culture that allows people to admit lack of knowledge, errors and doubt can move faster and far more effectively.

Data and information is flying around faster than ever.  Even so, we would all like to accelerate the flight of knowledge that can add value to our organisations.

What are you doing to accelerate your organisation’s knowledge in flight?

Track Knowledge in Flight

Man’s flight through life is sustained by the power of his knowledge. – Austin ‘Dusty’ Miller

Too much knowledge dies in storage. Much is lost in people’s heads or files never again to be used. Any dead knowledge will be painstakingly and wastefully recreated, only to be lost again. Knowledge management systems that are about creating new stores of knowledge rarely realise their potential.

Knowledge isn’t a stock. We need to focus on its flow. We need ways to see or track knowledge in flight so that we can better use it.

  • Movement means visibility: When knowledge is put into action, especially in collaboration we have a chance to see it. Often an organisation does not know what it knows until its people begin to discuss and answer questions
  • Movement means relevance: We are rightly more interested in the knowledge that is being used by others. The fact that someone else finds it relevant and wants to share and apply it signals that it is of value.
  • Movement means context: Documents and files can lack the context that is necessary to fully understand and use information. This is one reason that effective knowledge management systems focus on the role of people to provide context. Seeing information move provides a path of people who can share context.
  • Movement means others: Action attracts attention. That is likely to draw in others who can add or leverage the knowledge.

There are many ways we can accentuate the visible movement of knowledge. John Stepper talks about the power of ‘working out loud’, sharing work in progress to enable others to see and collaborate. Social tools provide a platform for moving and recording movement of knowledge in a public and searchable way. Communities of practice can become bazaars of knowledge movement and custodians of rich records of use.

Where is knowledge in flight in your organisation? How can you make that movement more visible?

Concentrate on the Flow of Knowledge

Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge – Plato

John Stuart Mill was once described, no doubt erroneously, as someone who knew all the knowledge that it was possible for someone to know in his era.  The possibility that there is a finite stock of knowledge is one that tempts us.   Even the concept of ‘knowledge as power’ assumes a scarce stock of knowledge to be allocated out for influence.

In an era of rapid change and high levels of connectedness, what matters is not an individual’s stock of knowledge.  The value of an individual stock of knowledge is falling as new knowledge is being created fast, search costs are reduced and there is an increasing focus on collaborative knowledge work.

Individuals have greatest impact now through their ability to contribute to the flow of knowledge.

Managing the flow of knowledge in networks takes new and different skills:

  • Creators: who add new ideas to the flow of discussions to build knowledge
  • Connectors: who know where to source and distribute knowledge in and around organisations
  • Context providers: who know how to provide new knowledge with context that adds to its trust, value or meaning
  • Community managers: who build enduring communities across boundaries, aid their sharing of knowledge and building of consensus

A pile of publications, patents and Ph.Ds might offer temporary bragging rights.  However, real and enduring value of knowledge comes from its application in our everyday fast moving interactions.

Focus on the flow of knowledge in and around your organisation and you will see better the individuals who are accelerating that flow and creating new value.