Is KM Turning A New Leaf?


Contemporary business management, the product of most US b-schools, has a predilection to Newtonian mechanics, processes, metrics, Taylorism, Fordism and so forth. We need to flip that model.

The problem is business people always go after the low-hanging fruit of simple process work. This is particularly true and harmful in general business management and for knowledge management (KM).

Maybe some managers truly believe in complexity and networks, but they always run out of daylight before they get to it. It is time to correct this pernicious business management and KM defect.

Again, leading complex adaptive systems that embrace organization mutation and variation for perpetual innovation is a higher-order cognitive activity. Today’s organizational exapatation, ‘evo-devo‘ (evolutionary development), pivots, etc., are the norm not the exception.

Today, complexity is outside the management establishment’s talent pool. While business leadership craves it, orthodox business management and KM has consistently over-promised and under-delivered on complexity leadership.

Colabria New Leaf

Do you ever find it ironic that KM, a disciplined that practically invented the after-action review (AAR), post mortems, learning from your mistakes and best practices, is so incredibly fearful of doing it for themselves?

KM is hypersensitive to any feedback that doesn’t talk the happy-talk of linear document management, information engineering and tow-the-line of rigid process management techniques. Whenever constructive feedback is offered KMers run and hide behind their portals, BPR, taxonomies and repositories. 

The very pinnacle of  KM failure and misuse is the periodic, specious attempts to create KM Standards, Certifications and Systems. These harmful efforts always fail. They hurt people and organizations. They must be stopped once-and-for-all.

We should all take stock in the enormous failures and costly harm of past and contemporary KM. As one respected KM observer put it, “…the abysmal failure of knowledge processes and engineering.”

Look, processes are GREAT for controlling mechanical activities, working with natural resources, manufacturing, mining, etc. That’s why these industrial processes, in the 20th Century, created more wealth than the world has ever known.

Problem is the industrial revolution is so over. In fact, so is the information revolution (Born 1956 when the US Labor Dept noted white collar workers exceeded blue collar for the first time and forever). It takes discipline to unlearn. It is not easy.

Processes and Standards are specifically designed to drive OUT variation. Thing is, variation is essential to knowledge and innovation! ‘Knowledge process’ is an oxymoron! Remember, variation and stochastic mutation is essential to disruptive  innovation and knowledge management.

Remember distributed phronensis inhabits complex networks not KM Standards.

The push back from the Confucius-type mandarins holding court in many specious MBA programs is a deliberate attempt to hold onto the knowledge process and repository orthodoxy. It’s because people are unwilling and unable to (re)learn. It is ironic, because they are sabotaging their own profession!

Look, many in KM people like the ‘iceberg’ metaphor. With explicit the tip, and tacit everything else. Then, inexplicably, they focus all skill, energy, sweat and effort on the tip! Can you believe it? Same goes for general business management. It is utterly ridiculous and wrong-headed. Industrial and information age models do NOT work for knowledge-based organizations.

KMers like to group work activities into three buckets: Simple, Complicated and Complex. That’s how they set priorities. This must be reversed to: Complex, Complicated, Simple. Instead of a typical, defective KM resource allocation and focus of Simple (80%), Complicated (20%) and Complex (0%), lets flip it! The KM and business leadership focus must be Complex (80%), Complicated (20%), Simple (0%). Let’s help KM turn A new leaf.

Colabria Action Research

Colabria EET

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