The Tragedy of the Knowledge Commons

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007
20071106_KMWorld2007RichardMcDermott.JPGThe tragedy of the knowledge commons
Richard McDermott offers some unconventional steps organizations can and individuals can take to deal with the flood of complexity, connections, and information.
As information content, connection and complexity explode, maybe we should shift from seeing knowledge management as a traditional library model and more to how to live in it as a world.

Richard shared a story of a nameless well known and well respected (MAKE winner) organization.  In the early days of computerization, maps were drawn computer assisted; time consuming and difficult to produce, did not change often. Now, in this organization, maps (think documents) are easily created, so we have multiple versions of maps floating around, utility drops, trust drops. They are drowning in knowledge, faithfully captured in their systems. [The problem is in how they use and interact with it.]

Shift in Knowledge Work
  • Globalization increass the amount of information content to sort;. (How much email do you get>? Which doc version to trust?)
  • Computerization increases complexity of knowledge
  • Global connectivity has increased transaction time for managing contacts
  • Leads to a "tragedy of the Knowledge Commons"


Example of KM Conf 10 years ago: "What if TI knew what TI Knows?"

As a result, we have more information and less access to it, to focus on it, and to apply it. Richard told the story of the tragedy of commons and proposed it was like our own "knowledge commons."

How do we deal with this knowledge explosion?

Some "what if" questions...


Individual Strategies

1. What if we organized our time around the kind of attention that activities take?
2. What if we selectively applied our full attention to some things?
What if we allow limited attention and preserve the discipline of thinking?
(High performers consistently apply attention to specific activities.)
3. What if we use less information when we make decisions (if you know what you are doing?
Knowledge resides in our way of looking at something
What if we allow experts to use judgement & make snap decisions?
4. What if we look for precedents rather than best practices?
What if we learned from others' experiences?
(Precedents give us ideas)
5. What if we look beyond our borders and connect with different worlds?
We could look across boundaries (industries) to learn what they know.
(Edison was a broker of ideas between industries)

Organizational Strategies

1. Create pressure to learn and share
What if KM strategies... create pressure strong enough to compete for attention?
2.
3. Integrate thinking into the work
What if KM strategies ... give people room, expectation & tools to aid thinking?
4. Deepen Expertise
What if KM strategies ...
  • Identify where to promote deep expertise?
  • Create a mechanism for developing expertise?
  • (expertise may be a competative advantage)

As information content, connection and complexity explode, maybe we should shift from seeing knowledge management as a traditional library model and more to how to live in it as a world.

20071106_KMWorldRichardMcDermottandEricMack.jpg

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