Yesterday I was exploring the ways in which knowledge management as a discipline has evolved, for an IKM paper which Kingo and I are working on. Many authors have written on this, both in the field of KM4D and ‘mainstream’ KM(Huysman et al. 2007, Ferguson and Cummings 2007, Koenig 2005, Snowden 2002, Laszlo and Laszlo 2002, to name but a few). They all have slightly different views on this, identifying two, three or even four generations of knowledge management. There are of course certain similarities among them:
- ‘First generation’ generally means that the approach was very ICT-driven, harnessed a rather ‘objectivist’ view on knowledge, and aimed to use knowledge as a way to optimize efficiency and competitive advantage. Examples of implementations are KM systems (brrrrr…) such as ‘knowledge databases’, portals, etc.
- ‘Second generation’ demonstrates more awareness of the contextual relevance of knowledge, and ICTs were gradually recognized as a means to support KM rather than its main driver. Tacit knowledge was recognized as an important source of knowledge, and ‘organizational learning’ became an important focus for KM-initiatives. ‘Best practices’ and case studies were popular KM-outputs.
- ‘Third generation’ KM harnesses a strong people-centric approach to knowledge, recognizing not just the contextual embeddedness of knowledge, but also the difficulty involved in transferring knowledge between people in different contexts. This might be described as a practice-based view on knowledge: communities of practice are the main focus for knowledge generation and exchange, and innovative facilitation methods are introduced in organizations to strengthen their knowledge sharing capacities.
- ‘Fourth generation’ KM (Koenig 2005, see also Sarah’s earlier posting), involves a smarter ‘content management’ and organization of knowledge. In this context, taxonomies and CMS are quoted as being important KM-tools.
As mentioned above, these are views with which one may or may not agree. But – and here I finally get to the main point! – thinking about Simon’s posting earlier this week in combination with the views expressed above triggered me to think that we may in fact be approaching the next generation of KM (which I would argue as being the 4th generation).
In this new phase, a practice-based view on knowledge, expressed through (inter-organizational) communities of practice remain central. However, KM implementation focuses on more than organizational processes and methods – because now technologies are (re)introduced as an important KM component – albeit new, highly collaborative forms. The technologies are developed to support communities (rather than to ‘capture’ knowledge), and communities are supported to develop and share knowledge.
Tools are selected and integrated according to a community’s needs, demonstrating a much stronger connection between technology, knowledge needs and community building than f.i. the 1st generation. In the current issue of KM4D Journal, Nancy White et al. have called this ‘technology stewardship‘ and it demonstrates full awareness of both the knowledge needs of a community and the technologies available to support these. A real integration of ‘web 2.0’ into the core organizational processes…
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