All the information technology, corporate strategizing,
and technological forecasting can never change the fact that we are
human. We have beliefs, feelings, intuitions, and values -- and continue
to hold to these no matter how irrational or dangerous they may be.
Is there room in Knowledge Management (KM) for the daily struggles
of the human condition? Can we, as information professionals, design
systems that mold to this constantly erupting landscape of emotion?
The purpose of KM is to improve knowledge sharing
in an organization, but the processes that govern information flow
in any organization are not solely dependent on the decrees of management.
There are also the daily thoughts, beliefs, and concerns of the individual
people who share information. No computer, no system can plumb the
depths of the human soul to capture it in a database. A person must
be willing to share their knowledge, and this willingness is a product
of trust, values, and emotions.
It is this challenge that Knowledge Management now
faces. We must first recognize that organizations are made up of people
bound together by tasks, policies, and, most importantly, mutual benefit.
Because people are likely to act in their own self interests, any
member of the organization will leave in the absence of an incentive.
This incentive is a complex combination of social, physical, economic,
spiritual, emotional, and many other factors. This ecosystem is the
habitat in which knowledge lives in an organization.
In order to gain access to that knowledge, the information
systems we build must mimic the natural ways in which people share
information. This can only be done by (a) analyzing and creating a
model of the interactions in the organization and (b) designing information
systems based on that model that affords for the natural processes
of the organization in vivo.
However, it is not enough to simply model a system
and mimic its behavior. The way that the information system is implemented
is far more crucial to the success of the KM initiative. It must be
designed and implemented in such a way that respects the needs and
desires of the people who make up the organization. Regardless of
how individually beneficial the information system may be, people
will not accept a change that they have no power in choosing. Again,
the human characteristics of trust, values, and emotions play a pivotal
role in Knowledge Management.