Kate Pugh, president of Align Consulting, has provided us with some useful guidelines on in her recent book: Sharing Hidden Know-How: How managers solve thorny problems with the knowledge jam. The book describes Knowledge Jam, “a facilitated collaborative method for helping organizations rediscover the fundamental discipline of knowledge transfer – the conversation.” This approach was developed by Kate and uses human interaction to capture unwritten insights, and position them to provide business value. I have known Kate for some time and am very pleased to see her methods documented in this excellent book. I did a brief review on the OutStart blog but will go into more depth here.
The book provides a step-by-step process and practical tools that will help organizations harness their untapped knowledge. As the book states it, “shows how to scope topics, foster the correct tone, conduct a knowledge capture event, and integrate found knowledge into the organization.” The Knowledge Jam method uses conversation to capture information and the all important context for this information.
Knowledge Solutions can be a great help here as they become the carrier for the identified knowledge, a main means to harvest more, and the vehicle to identify and put it in the hands of the right people to derive business value from its use. Kate covers the related technologies to the methods she provides. She quotes Andy McAfee on the value that collaborative technology brings to the table, “Now contributions are globally visible (everyone with access to the platform can see them) and persistent (they stick around and so can be consulted and searched for). Access can be restricted…but the main goal of platform technology is to make content widely and permanently available to its members.” It is this transparency that is one of the main benefits of enterprise 2.0 and Knowledge Solution technologies.
The book further describes Knowledge Jam as a “process is built around the disciplines of facilitation, conversation, and translation. These bring into balance the coordination, expansion, and pragmatic "pull" of knowledge into its future uses around the organization. Knowledge Jam moves things along efficiently, with a shared sense of responsibility for helping last month's or last year's insights to transform into today's innovative products, functions or regional strategies.”
The book begins with a rationale for Knowledge Jams. It is designed to address three problems with knowledge work: knowledge blind spots, knowledge mismatches, and knowledge jails. The blind spots are gaps in our understanding about where resides. The mismatches are failures to get the right knowledge in a format or location that makes it usable within the organization. The jails are places where knowledge gets trapped and becomes unusable to the organization.
Next, Kate goes into the basics of a Knowledge Jam. You select the focused topic and participants, plan the project, discover and capture useful knowledge through conversations, you use brokers to get the knowledge in the right shape to be used, and then you reuse the knowledge in ways that help the organization. A Knowledge Jam can occur over days or months.
Then Kate covers the disciplines required to make this work facilitation, conversation, and translation. She provides detailed explanations and conceptual tools that can be used for each. Armed with these explanations she then revisits the three knowledge problems introduced at first: Knowledge blind spots, mismatches, and jails. The next step is to place the three disciplines in the context of recent business practices and tools: intelligence acquisition, organizational learning, and collaboration technologies.
Knowledge Jams are then compared to other knowledge capture techniques such as after action reviews, mentoring, traditional journalism, peer assist, communities of practice, and appreciative inquiry. Next, Kate covers how to build a Knowledge Jam program and explores how it can lead change and leverage social media.
I think this book and method represents a significant contribution to the ways we make better use of knowledge within organizations. It is a useful complement to any implementation of Knowledge Solutions. As Larry Prusak said it is, “A fine example of the new generation of knowledge books.” It offers structure to a process that is usually carried out in intuitive means. If you want to make better use of knowledge with your organization, this is a useful book for you.