Knowledge management is power

"The face of knowledge management: a status report"

In this time of transition in government, sharing information is vital. Knowledge management comes into play as technology enables the sharing of ideas and information.

Establishing an intranet seems to be one knowledge management tool—a solution to circulate information among those who need it. But because knowledge management arose as a result of the explosion of information in the Digital Age, careful thought must be given to the kind of content that goes on an intranet.


Storytelling

Intranets allow for new procedures, data, policies, etc., to be quickly shared throughout an organization. In some instances, however, it is better to find the expert than the documents authored by the expert. An editorial writer in Internet Week recently remarked that knowledge management should enable workers to locate colleagues who can share "war stories."

Hearing how problems were overcome—in the form of anecdotes, lessons learned and how-to advice—is a low-tech, low-cost form of knowledge management. In bygone days, a storyteller regaled fireside listeners with tales of the past. Nowadays, the story is replaced by an e-mail message—and the fire by a water cooler or coffeepot.

Consequently, noted the editorialist, "The best knowledge management systems are predicated on communications technologies—messaging, conferencing, groupware and the like." They're not based on static archives of information.


E-Learning

Another way to share information across an organization is through structured learning events. Knowledge management includes electronic learning, which facilitates knowledge transfer.

The impact of e-learning can be seen in the sheer number of individuals who can participate. As one online learning advocate said in the January issue of Online Learning magazine, "In the old world, an instructor could influence the lives of about 24 people a week. On the Internet, you can help thousands."

The American Society for Training and Development offers a reader-friendly learning experience at its Learning Circuits site. One useful article in its eLearning 1.0 series is "Build a Business Case for Online Learning Projects."

A good way to get ideas for developing your own e-learning program is to see examples, ranging from a simple online tutorial to complex courses, such as:

Finally, you can even post your own course for free at Blackboard.com.


Mentoring

Another knowledge management tool—similar to storytelling—is mentoring, which helps experienced employees share their knowledge with new employees.

MentorNet is one resource for such arrangements. It is the result of an academic's effort to link professionals with students, all done on a shoestring and all done online.

Although online mentoring does involve some commitment of time, busy professionals can take advantage of threaded discussion forums and discussion groups to access expert colleagues.

For a good resource on knowledge management conferences, resources and special interest groups, see KM.gov, the federal government's knowledge management initiative Web site.

Tang is a Web designer in the Information Technology Group at Caliber Associates, Fairfax, Va. Her e-mail address is tangb@ix.netcom.com.

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