KM Fetishes

KM Renaissance

There is a knowledge management (KM) renaissance underway. KM has long been a troubled discipline. Vendors, dilettantes and document jockeys hijacked KM and called it their own. Moribund IT & HR units co-opted KM as their savior. Frustrated process engineers failed at making KM an ordered system. Best Practice bullies codified disastrous central repositories for communities-of-practice. Fortunately, for the benefit of all, the social reorientation of work has achieved a true renaissance for Authentic KM.

The goal of KM is to achieve fundamental advancements in business, the enterprise, government and civil society. The early 21st Century is a period of enormous digital transformation and network upheaval. Authentic KM is returning front-and-center. Many leaders worldwide share this critical view.


Still, in some waning precincts, old habits die hard. Malignant KM fetishism and zealotry remains. Authentic KM leaders have been called ‘lost,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘naive,’ ‘missed-out’, lacking ‘decency,’ etc. because they do not subscribe to a particular fetish. These claims are unfair, craven and, sadly, all too-common in KM.

Many of the great leaders in KM have a long and storied tradition of high achievement. They are the top leaders in global knowledge, KM and knowledge economics. We are a patient and empathetic lot. We all knew, over time, Authentic KM would return and prevail for the long-haul.

Unfortunately, a lot of KM effort, over the decades, goes into correcting the newest KM fetish and the zealots that drive them. Recall, a KM fetish is any KM object, idea, concept, etc., eliciting and requiring unquestioning reverence, respect and devotion. Fetishes are the bane of KM.

Current KM Fetishes, most harmful first:

· Standards

· Certification

· Best Practices

· Scholarship

· Technology

Fetishistic incantations in KM discussion groups are the telltale symptom of the disease. Zealots spew KM hubris about standards or certifications to impress themselves. Beware. Their new-found mantras are meaningless and harmful.

Simply put, KM fetishes are a nuisance. The consequence is difficult and chaotic KM. Facing KM fetishes the cadre of genuine KM leaders took flight to greener pastures. Bombastic KM newbies filled the air with their vain, useless claims of best practices or the philosophies of science.

Colabria CommunityFor example, community of practice (CoP) has long been a staple of KM. However, it too has been hijacked and ruined.

Authentic KM is the ‘practice of community.’ It’s not ‘communities of practice.’ Situated cognition is the original and lasting intention of CoPs.

For Authentic KM knowing is inseparable from doing. The practice of community is serving complex social network structures and patterns. It achieves optimal outcomes. It is from the dawn of KM and derives from distributed phronesis.

The pinnacle of fetishistic KM was United States Patent Number: US 7,127,440 for the Knowledge management system and method.

These efforts harm and diminish the enormous power and utility of KM. Fortunately, like the other grave KM fetishes, particularly Standards, Certifications and Best Practices, ‘knowledge management systems’ are correctly seen as useless and counterproductive.

Fortunately, the vacant KM dilettantes, their turgid rants and pedantic lecturing on knowledge & KM are summarily dismissed in favor of Authentic KM.

Meanwhile, determined and genuine KM is enjoying renewed attention and priority. KM leaders are working diligently to refine and propel Authentic KM.

To refract and anneal KM principles, in a friendly and accessible manner, with attractive graphics and prose, in under 1-minute, is critical. There is a reason micro-blogging services like Twitter is 140-characters: it’s effective KM! There are reasons blogs are short and short for ‘Web log.’ Authentic KM is about honing your elevator pitch.

People ask, “What is Authentic KM?” This example from Bank of America, “Conversation is Good Business,” is a fine example of Authentic KM.

Colabria Action Research

Colabria EET

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