3- KM is for Value Creation

In the private sector, value is measured in terms of how much consumers are willing to pay for a product or service, or how much stock market buyers are willing to pay for stocks of a corporation. The key element is how much a consumer is willing to pay, which in turn depends on her/his satisfaction. KM starts with recognizing what internal and external customers WANT. On these criteria hinge management decisions, including KM.

There is an ugly fly in this ointment: most consumers make decisions with almost zero knowledge of the human, social, environmental and cultural costs inflicted elsewhere while producing what she/he buys. Do you agree that most corporate KM contribute to perpetuating this situation?

In the public and civil society sectors, the mainstream development value is sustainable development — which can be restated in KM language as: development of social, natural and economic capital in ways that are not at the expense of each other. The World Bank proposed a four-pillar model of the Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE). They then developed a widely-used KAM or Knowledge Assessment Methodology for measuring the progress of national economies along the four pillars. The limitation of KBE is that the four pillars pertain only to the economic dimension. The Asian Development Bank subsequently proposed a broader framework, marrying KM with sustainable development, and came up with Knowledge-Based Development (KBD). However, it has not come up with similarly practical indicators.

Communities and social groups are the primary actors in development. KM for development starts with recognition of the needs and values of a community. You will surely agree with me that KM starts with what a community truly WANTS.

There is a messy fly in this ointment: results valued by a social group may be harmful to another social group. Al Qaeda and the US Government want valuable (to each of them) results extremely at odds with each other — and each uses KM along their own definitions of what to them is effective action (both use manuals, mentoring, technology, learning-by-doing, websites, networks, etc. — all KM tools). More, milder situations exist, where the KM framework of the more powerful group prevails (sometimes unwittingly) over that of the less powerful.

In many places in our planet, development can hardly proceed because of conflict — a sign of eroded or damaged social capital. In fact social capital can be double-edged: some social groups achieve unity among insiders (improving “bonding” social capital or exclusive social capital) by cultivating greater enmity against outsiders or enemies (worsening “bridging” social capital or inclusive social capital -from Putnam, Woolcock, Bourdieu,etc.).

It is utterly urgent to, using KM language, cultivate bridging social capital to heal the differences between warring nations, religions and ethnic groups — and failure can be in the form of a global or regional nuclear war that can destroy all other forms of capital in the planet.

This morning, I received an invitation to help the Center for Bridging Societal Divides of the Asian Institute of Management formulate their KM framework. One of their missions is to provide training on Bridging Leadership. I keep experiencing these interesting and seemingly random “connections” in my KM work. Jung called this synchronicity.

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