ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS) released

The Draft ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS) have finally been released.

I do love the attempt to set standards, where “Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline focused on ways that organizations create and use knowledge.” Think about that for just a moment – standards for a discipline focused on ways that organisations create and use knowledge. The scope and scale of underpinning theories, concepts, frameworks, systems, processes and behaviours is immense and well beyond the capacity/capability of the vast majority of organisational KM functions.

These concerns are captured in the Draft ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS), where the website states that “Knowledge is intangible and complex. Knowledge primarily originates from human experience and insights.” I’m thrilled to see the focus on human experience and insights, as well as the ISO itself being centred on Human Resource Management (Data & Information Managers, Librarians and traditional IT-facing KMers, what do you think of that?)) – the obvious problem being that hardly any Knowledge Managers are experts in Talent Management, Human Resource Management or Learning and Development (see our 2016 report for evidence).

Then, the icing on the cake, the ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS) standards state, “There is no one knowledge management solution that fits all organizations within all contexts. Organizations may develop their own approach to the scope of knowledge and Knowledge Management and how to implement these efforts, based on the needs and context.” I totally agree! So, following the ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS) logic, how do you set “standards” for the management of an intangible, complex, human-centric concept, where the boundaries of activity vary according to context?

Here, we have variety and anyone familiar with Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety will know that you require variety to overcome variety – a fairly significant problem for such a complex concept as human knowledge and learning. But, have no fear, though KM is complex and varies according to context, the ISO for KM states that “All the requirements of this international standard are applicable to any organization, regardless of its type or size, or the products and services it provides”.

Consider, again, that the ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS) accepts knowledge as a human condition. Knowledge is also inextricably linked to learning. Learning, as with the ISO statements on KM is complex, varies according to the number of variables involved and the level of interactivity between said variables, as well as the knowledge, skills and experience of the learner, which means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to prescribe universal standards for the acquisition of knowledge (see our 2017 journal article on this problem (Journal of Adult and Continuing Education). But, we now have an ISO that seemingly claims to be able to do just that!

Seriously, who was employed to develop this Draft ISO Knowledge Management Standard (DIS)?

Of even more interest, how many Knowledge Managers actually have the capability (knowledge, skills and experience) to deliver on these standards. How many HR professionals have KM experience? But don’t worry, you can always hire a consultant.

Wait a minute… how many Knowledge Managment consultants have HR, Talent Management, KM and Learning and Development experience?

I’ve just realised, this is an amazing ISO and I recommend that every organisation in the world take action to implement it as a matter of priority.



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