Vol 49, No. 5
Not all knowledge management efforts require a supercomputer and a complicated system.
A recent survey of 800 managers by eePulse Inc. found that 78 percent share information through personal and informal communication, compared to 19 percent that have formal or technology-driven processes in place. (Three percent don’t tap employee knowledge at all.)
Of those using technology, the most frequent methods were simple, such as e-mail, phone and web-based communications. Theresa M. Welbourne, eePulse CEO, saw few examples of sophisticated software systems or processes that “collect and systematically share employee knowledge with people who can take action.”
But such complex systems may not always be necessary.
“What’s sorely needed at the majority of companies is a simple, practical system to take [employees’] ideas and deal with them properly,” says Alan G. Robinson, a management professor at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts and co-author of Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations (Berrett-Koehler, 2004). “A good idea system is the single most powerful knowledge management tool. It’s kind of the low-hanging fruit for human resources.”
To be effective, however, even simple knowledge management systems should be more than mere document repositories. For example, Marc J. Rosenberg, author of E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and a knowledge management consultant in Hillsborough, N.J., recalls one company where few people used the white papers and reports placed online by the research department.
The solution: The firm made the site interactive. Employees now can ask precise questions of the scientists who generate the information and make better decisions in less time, Rosenberg says.