Last week, I wrote about the long tail and KM, and posited that the simplicity of a wiki made it more likely that organizations would be able to capture what people knew (and therefore be in a stronger position to leverage the institutional knowledge).
Unlike Rick, I see little incentive for individual workers to take extra steps to memorialize their knowledge on the off chance that someone else may find it useful some day. As I read his argument, making it very easy to memorialize know-how means workers will more likely do so. I suspect that unless a workers think they will personally need the info again or there is institutional incentive to capture it, they will think “why bother?” no matter how easy.
Following on that theme, blog newcomer (welcome, Rees!) and long-time corporate counsel consultant Rees Morrison wrote that the greater good is no good:
Law departments struggle with these compilations of information because lawyers do not want to expose their ideas – lest they be criticized, perhaps; or they claim they do not have time, which really means that they do not see the payoff justifying their effort; or they are hobbled by technology, even down to the simple point of not being able to type proficiently.
In both cases, Rees and Ron point to the unlikely scenario in which lawyers share info simply to be nice; that there needs to be a concrete reason for capturing what they know. Rees goes further and says there may be some active disincentives that explain why some lawyers don’t share.
Jeff and I have debated this point before; last summer we offered our thoughts on whether there was a new trend in KM that focused less on the overall institutional needs and more on the individual needs — I thought then, and am even more convinced today, that by doing the latter you actually solve the former. That is, if you make it easier for individuals to simply do their job — share info, collaborate, get things done — then you’ll by necessity increase the “surface area” (hat tip: Jon Udell for that wonderful metaphor) of knowledge the organization can tap when necessary.)
To circle back to Ron’s disagreement with my original post: Am I suggesting that people will write stuff down simply because they like their colleagues? No. (These are lawyers we’re talking about, after all.) But I am suggesting that tools which make their jobs easier will get used — and if an ancillary benefit of those tools is that knowledge is slowly captured and exposed within the organization, then the organization as a whole stands to benefit a great deal.