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Knowledge Management, Viewpoint!

Knowledge Management: systems vs. people

I was reading a client’s Knowledge Management Newsletter and it contained an interview which caught my eye.  The interviewee said “I believe that it’s largely systems that change people’s behaviour.  Guidance and ‘culture change’ initiatives are important too, but I don’t see any value in telling people that ‘knowledge and information are important assets’ without backing that message up with user-friendly, intuitive systems“.

I’m not sure I completely agree with the view that “it’s largely systems that change people’s behaviour”. 

Some of the Knowledge Management projects I’ve facilitated over the years demonstrate that is not the case and there are plenty of small-scale examples where simple, people-oriented, changes have made a significant difference to the sharing of knowledge.  And, so many of the writers on KM say that it is 80% “people” and only 20% “technology” that are important for embedding a KM culture that leads to real business benefits.

I believe there is a big risk that in a large, complex organisation you could wait a very long time for the right systems to be put in place.  I do agree, though, that new systems will force people to change their behaviour because they inevitably require different processes to be followed.

I am reminded of three simple principles of change:

  1. It is easier to change the situation than someone’s behaviour
  2. It is easier to change behaviour than attitude
  3. It is easier to change the attitude, than the person

In other words, start by finding some way to change the current situation (which could include introducing new technology, or it could include designing “knowledge-sharing” into meeting agendas).  Don’t try to start by trying to change people’s attitudes to knowledge-sharing, or even by trying to change their behaviour – new “situations” will enable behaviour change, leading to attitude change when new outcomes are achieved.

You might also be interested to read my article: KM – Applied common sense?

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