Should Knowledge Management embrace learning?


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There are a lot of discussions taking place lately on social media, asking about the links between knowledge and learning. So…

Should Knowledge Management embrace learning?

Why is the question even being asked? Yes! A thousand times, yes!

For decades now, Knowledge Management professionals and consultants have used Lessons Learned as a staple offering within organisations. With this in mind, why are the links between KM and learning even in question? [some of the reasons for this were explored in our 2015 global report on the general state of Knowledge Management]

please-close-the-gate-signUnfortunately, these discussions on learning are probably too late, where KM as a concept has an IT mindset and those trying to rescue it are, arguably, trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Which begs the question, why has the wider KM community been so slow to embrace learning as a critical contributor to the human condition that is knowledge?

The problem (the need for KM to embrace learning principles) is nothing new, we were demonstrating this gap ten years ago (e.g. learning sits at the heart of our award-winning KM programs and our effort to improve KM performance and reliability) and it wasn’t just us that noticed the problem – for example, this quote from J.C. Spender in 2008:

“…it is remarkable how seldom learning theory is even referred to in the KM literature” (Spender, 2008, p. 165)

It is a fact that for too long the KM community has ignored the fact that managing, knowledge and learning and their relevant processes and behaviours are inseparable – there’s even a book on these Learning Organisations, called “The fifth discipline” [I also note multiple criticisms by people like Dave Snowden that are worth consideration]

I’m pleased to see the wider Knowledge Management community embracing and promoting interdependence/integration with learning. High-Performance and High-Reliability Knowledge Management depend on learning and it is refreshing to see the wider Knowledge Management community finally showing the appetite to tackle the problem.

For those interested in learning principles, the following blogs might be of interest:

6 powerful principles to accelerate learning in your organisation

Six opportunities to improve the speed of learning in organisations 

The power of HR: Small changes big gains (marginal gains)

Six powerful ways to surface knowledge (for free)!

What happens when you relentlessly pursue the development of people?

The theatre of Knowledge management: Are you making this ‘best practice’ mistake?

An 11 point survival guide for Knowledge Management and Learning Organisations

If you are interested in High-Performance High-Reliability Knowledge Management, we’ll see you later this year.


5 thoughts on “Should Knowledge Management embrace learning?

  1. This is a timely article. There is a need to bring the two mindsets together (KM & Instructional Design). They are different animals. A technology called IQxCloud id designed for this purpose.

    1. I’ve seen your website and I would be interested in hearing more – as you probably have seen, my background is KM & learning design (processes/behaviours/structures that align with adult learning principles) and, therefore, this type of development is interesting to me.

  2. David, Thank you for your interest. I believe shareholders will soon be demanding that organizations own the knowledge in the heads of employees and consultants. This opens the door for both KM and Instructional design, which is more interested in creatively communicating subject matter expert knowledge than in faithfully modeling lessons-learned knowledge or best practices per se. I have a Use Case article coming out in Learning Solutions Magazine some time in March. It shows screen shots of how our technology infuse. IQxCloud is based on a Microservice architecture, runs concurrent MySQL, ElasticSerarch, and MongoDB apps, thought it can interoperate with the major database systems as well. IQxCloud is designed to meet the standards of a Knowledge Science (Knowledge = Applied Theory + Information (data), and allows non-programming professionals to develop highly complex organizational knowledge-webs that are far more functional than conventional Internet technologies. We have two Knowledge Engineering courses that can teach non-programming professionals how to model most any form of organizational knowledge within two weeks.

    Content developed on IQxCloud is delivered on-demand. The system works the way people think, so it is adaptable to any level of education a user may have. The IQxCloud Atomic Concept Architecture is designed to model concepts first (never duplicated), which are then inserted into common patterns-of-thought (compositions, taxonomies, sequences, sets, etc.), and organized according to ontological commitments, and delivered through a constraint browser (IQ Browser), on-demand. The interface is as simple as Twitter or Google.

    1. Hi Dennis, I’ve been on your site but, not sure if it is my browser, but many of the links don’t seem to be working and I’m struggling to see what your technology actually does (screenshots, documentation, pricing etc.).

      I hope you don’t mind this feedback, but I am not sure I can subscribe to the notion of KM and instructional design (bias toward training and learning as something that is done “to” you) as opposed to learning design (bias toward self-direction and learning as something that “you do”). I would be really interested as to why you have decided to focus on instructional design over learning design, as I would argue that there is a danger of taking a pedagogical focus, as opposed to andragocial or heutagogical, which better suits the needs of adult learners and, therefore, the needs of Enterprise KM.

      Look forward to hearing your thoughts…looks interesting.


  3. I think we are looking at a social and cultural period in which having a paying job or a sell-able offering requires being in an environment in which development and deployment of productive resources is systemic in this way: people constantly learn quickly enough to meet the requirements of rapidly changing but instructed responsibilities.

    Not all offerings are commercial, and not all responsibilities are to parties looking for profit. But having work that results in compensation redeemable for livability and quality of life should be the reason why this conversation is even seeking some advisable decision.

    Let’s also NOT oppose learning and instruction, anyway. The interface needs to be between learning (whether self-service or not) and teaching (whether self-service or not).

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