KMWorld 2008: What Have We Done Before?

Presented by James Robertson, Step Two Designs

How do we break down silos, and improve conversations across and through them?

Top-down communication is working …  but horizontal communication is poor. A chat over a beer (or around the water cooler) is often not enough. The weaknesses continue to be exposed with the rise of Web 2.0.

How do we build on the knowledge and solutions we already have? The ability to take advantage of current ideas and discoveries and use them in new circumstances. At the same time, we need to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Indexing tools are not enough – technology is not the whole solution. Google is not the whole answer.  We are not faced with an information discovery problem, because indexing can solve that. Search results are abundant.

It’s not necessarily only an knowledge sharing problems; centralized knowledge bases are not the whole solution, either. Centralizing knowledge via knowledge extraction is not the whole answer.

The issue is how to bridge the gap between industries and the differing terminology. Ideally we want to find the right people to talk to, where the meeting of minds produces new ideas and discoveries.

We need to talk about sharing awareness before we share knowledge. We need to know where to look. Everything that we do, we think what we’re doing is unique. We need more peripheral awareness of what else is happening in the organization.

How to Share Awareness?

Search Engine best bets:

  • People want knowledge at the point of need – this is tremendously difficult. Can use best bets to promote and share related knowledge in best bets search results.

Communities of Practice – see Cultivating Communities of Practice by Etienne Wenger

Information discovery can be aided by bringing people together to communicate and share best practices that can be used and built upon.

Using RSS to support peer-to-peer communication  – see

It’s not about the blog – it’s about the communicator.

Communication must be recognized as a business problem, not an information discovery or a knowledge management  solution.  We need a business solution, not a technology solution. Start small, and focus on the people.