Below is a transcript of a short interview with the KM Institute providing some of my views and recent experiences on Knowledge Management & Training in Europe. I hope to continue this perspective over time and to include other views and experiences.
KM Institute: What is your perspective or philosophy on knowledge management?
Barry Hardy: We currently live in a world of ever-increasing information flows, global interactions and cultural and technological complexity. We struggle as individuals, organisations and a society to make sense in this environment; we filter, ignore and grapple with the overwhelming tide of demands on our attention but often have insufficient support to get the understanding we need quickly enough to make best-informed decisions. Knowledge management strategies should provide the tools, people and conversations I need to fit into this complex world, perform more productively and to feel more in balance with oneself and the surrounding living and working environment.
KM Institute: How do you see knowledge management and technology?
Barry Hardy: Whereas technology-led first generation knowledge management techniques have been judged to fail in their concentration on capturing knowledge into explicit forms, I nevertheless see technology as increasingly providing essential knowledge support systems to knowledge workers. But the focus of these solutions will be stronger in context in both the support of the individual using, applying and creating knowledge and in the multiple social network contexts that the individual moves in. This will require a semantic web that interfaces with people’s profiles not just agents, with tools that enhance productivity in reducing time for mundane tasks such as search & retrieval, and in collaboration and community approaches that increasingly extend understanding and know-how beyond the boundaries of subject-matter expertise, internal organisational know-how and disconnected language, terminology, and cultures.
KM Institute: What attracted you to the KM Institute’s program?
Barry Hardy: We had been active in knowledge management activities in the pharmaceutical, life sciences and healthcare sectors. I often encountered people with diverse definitions and understanding of what knowledge management was or could do. With some people little differentiation existed between their understanding of knowledge management and IT, others were dismissive of IT approaches, and yet another group would see that knowledge management approaches were needed to solve problems but did not understand what those approaches could be. It was obvious to me that a comprehensive training and professional support program in knowledge management was needed by many. However, although good workshops and events on specific knowledge management topics were to be found, there was a limited offering available providing a comprehensive up-to-date coverage of the knowledge management field. The CKM of Douglas Weidner appeared to provide a unique solution of quality material and instruction combined with an international approach. This was confirmed by my interaction with Douglas in his speaker participation in a couple of our conferences and particularly as an instructor of KM in the first CKM class we ran in Switzerland in 2005. Very few if any others have the mastery to cover the depth and breadth of knowledge management topics that Douglas brings his instructor skills to bear on to share key understandings with workshop participants.
KM Institute: Is there an active interest in knowledge management in Switzerland?
Barry Hardy: Knowledge Management has an important contribution to make in the typical industries found in Switzerland including biotech, pharmaceuticals, precision engineering and of course banking. These industries involve a high concentration of specialised expertise, complexity and knowledge-rich products and services. Hence KM has a vital role to play in the internal sharing of knowledge and pursuit of innovation and in the communication challenges required with partners and customers. As illustrated by the participation and energetic contributions of Beat Knechtli, Knowledge Manager ABB Switzerland, in our first CKM class in Basel, there are companies such as ABB who are quite actively pursuing the implementation of KM strategies and processes in their business. However there are also many companies particularly in the small-to-mid range size where KM is only starting to appear on their radar and we need to grow awareness with these organisations. Although there are some local interest groups such as the Swiss KM forum who organise some meeting activity, there is not a great deal on offer locally in terms of workshops, training and advanced topics. With the KM Institute and collaborating with other local groups we can help fill some of those gaps. Further information on our KM training activities can be located on the KM Institute, Switzerland website located at http://www.kminstituteswitzerland.org/
KM Institute: What kind of knowledge management activity is taking place in Europe?
Barry Hardy: Knowledge Management activity is quite active in the UK and there are frequent workshops led by leading practitioners such as David Gurteen. David’s website (www.gurteen.com) is perhaps the most comprehensive frequently-visited website in KM around today. The European Union has evaluated knowledge management as a key competitive area of competency growth for the European economy in the next five years as its member states increasingly concentrate their work activities in knowledge-rich industries. Europe has a diversity of languages, cultures and attitudes and knowledge management in this context requires attention to such diversity. Knowledgeboard (www.knowledgeboard.com) is an example of one internet community project funded by the EU where people with an interest in knowledge management can share discussions and find out information on KM-related events taking place in Europe.
KM Institute: What were your experiences with running the first CKM class in Switzerland?
Barry Hardy: We had a group attending with diverse experiences from HR management, healthcare, IT and the oil industry and participants who had many questions and who were eager to share knowledge and discuss topics. This made for a very interactive class although we at times slowed Douglas down in getting through the materials planned for the day and often we went well beyond the programmed finish time! However the learning experiences from Douglas’s materials and the discussions were very rewarding so I think all found the time spent valuable as reflected in the high scores obtained back in class reviews. All participants developed a presentation during the week and received valuable critique from Douglas and the class on the final day. One member of the class returned to work with a new comprehensive knowledge management plan for her company and her new KM responsibility. We used a knowledge café and the trigger method to brainstorm which produced many ideas from class members around the many concepts we covered.
KM Institute: How did others in the Swiss class find the CKM program?
Barry Hardy: Feedback we received from our June class in 2005 included:
"Having been in KM for over 6 years, I can vouch for the robustness of the content and enjoyed capturing the new knowledge nuggets, especially around Measurement. I enjoyed the member participation and the diversity of the group which helped to place a broad and rich perspective on the course"
-- Hank Malik, IBM
"I liked the blend of theory and practice, opportunity to learn from fellow students, enriched brainstorming and knowledge café techniques, and pragmatic approach. Douglas is clearly an accomplished expert in the field and he is a very good presenter."
-- Andre Stepanov, Heidrick & Struggles
“I liked the interaction with the trainer and other participants, enthusiasm of the group, open discussions and contributions of participants.”
-- Beat Knechtli, ABB
KM Institute: What are future developments you see the KM Institute undertaking in Europe?
Barry Hardy: With the modular aspect of the programs being developed by the institute, we will be able to significantly extend the diversity of type of training offered so that in addition to the CKM class we can also cover programs designed for specialists and technologists. KM Essentials workshops and the new institute eLearning options should provide the ability to European organisations to run more comprehensive KM training programs of interest to all their knowledge workers. In the pharmaceutical and heathcare industries in which we also run the InnovationWell Network (innovationwell.net) I see considerable opportunities for collaborations providing training, assessment and performance support solutions customised around particular industry issues such as innovation and safety. Europe remains a diverse multi-lingual continent and although many working in the international business sector speak very good English, it will also be rewarding to extend the offering of current institute learning materials to other European languages such as German, French, Italian and Spanish.