As Knowledge Management (KM) professionals recognize, KM is much more than gathering and maintaining a library of templates, forms and playbooks. KM also includes knowledge about the business and people. It includes insights into who is working on what project, what hurdles they face with internal and external stakeholders, what people work(ed) on similar projects, how those projects may suggest a way to clear current hurdles, and why you will face hard and soft costs as those hurdles are cleared.
In the current COVID-19 environment, we connect and collaborate via [insert your videoconferencing solution here]. It is a great way to see people, exchange stories, and see whose self-made haircut portends the return of the mullet. Unfortunately, it does not replace the company water cooler where ideas are exchanged, relationships are forged, and insights derived. These happenstance connections enable us to gather and share knowledge and to build trust.
As we maintain our video-enabled distancing, we might consider intentional ways to enable our water cooler exchanges now and over time.
- Now: Who in [finance|HR|IT|Procurement|Legal] have we not seen recently? What about others in our department but who are NOT part of our immediate team?
- Tomorrow: When we collectively re-engage in person, how can we foster our informal networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Will the water cooler be a “safe” place? If unclear, how might we create one?
- Future: How will we develop a sustainable way to gather and share knowledge given the potential blend of in-person and virtual exchanges over time? Technology can support our collaboration and knowledge-sharing but technology does not collaborate or share knowledge; people do that.
As we engage virtually and eventually re-engage in person, we should not lose sight of the way we learn and share. This happens simply — through stories, drive-by visits to one’s [work location], and shared respites when we quench our thirst. The result is often more than we planned. It is the way we manage knowledge.