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The Noble Eightfold Path for Knowledge Management

Updated: May 29, 2021

The Noble Eightfold Path for Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management initiatives involve thoughtful and purposeful agents that interact, compete and collaborate to create meaningful value for the organisational community.

Being an interactive initiative, Knowledge Management needs to efficiently and effectively reveal agents of interest and explore system dynamics. So it is here, looking for a means to explore system dynamics, that I bring you to the Buddist Noble Eightfold Path.


  1. Right understanding (Samma ditthi)

  2. Right thought (Samma sankappa)

  3. Right speech (Samma vaca)

  4. Right action (Samma kammanta)

  5. Right livelihood (Samma ajiva)

  6. Right effort (Samma vayama)

  7. Right mindfulness (Samma sati)

  8. Right concentration (Samma samadhi)

I am not a Buddist, but in looking to develop a holistic view of Knowledge Management's environment, it can be helpful to engage tools that help navigate your thinking. For example, the Eightfold Path stimulated my PhD proposal for a new auditing and benchmarking framework for organisational KM initiatives. I found that when looking to see and understand the dynamics of a complex environment such as KM, The Noble Eightfold Path is as good a place to start as any.

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The Noble Eightfold Path for Knowledge Management

What follows is designed to stimulate your thinking around the delivery of high-impact KM initiatives. It is not presented as an absolute, but a good place to start.

The Right View

To develop high-impact Knowledge Management initiatives, you need The Right View, the right lens through which to observe and understand the world, one created from the right information.

The Right View in KM starts by understanding a fundamental governing truth: Knowledge Management is governed by the physics of a Complex Adaptive System. Understanding this governing truth will help you navigate your strategic and operational journey toward high-impact KM products and services.

The Right View informs The Right Intent, so how do you define KM as a Knowledge Manager? I ask, but it doesn't matter. The Right View is also about the evidence you use to shape Knowledge Management. If you are interested in developing thoughtful, meaningful, and valuable KM initiatives, you need to understand how users define KM because they are your customers. You exist to create knowledge services and products that your current and future customers find desirable, which means that it is not your definition of KM that is important but theirs.

For example, too many KM initiatives are solutions searching for problems; a failure to engage and involve the people who will activate the initiative brings KM to slow or fail. So here we are speaking of the evidence for action: if you want to know what an excellent KM experience looks like, don't ask the KM team ask the user; in doing so, you develop The Right View to deliver an exceptional user experience and speed adoption.

Read: What does Knowledge Management mean to you?

The Right Intention

High-impact Knowledge Management is about thoughtful and meaningful actions that focus on the goals of its users, making their work-life better. If you do not have empathy for and rapport with your users, then KM services and products will more than likely end up being solutions searching for problems. Therefore, knowledge Management initiatives can only be said to have

The Right Intention becomes clear when Knowledge Managers can demonstrate that their products and services are thoughtful, meaningful and valuable. Meaning they have alignment with the current and anticipated goals of the agents that KM exists to serve. Here, I speak of the golden thread between KM products services and the range of known and anticipated strategic and operational objectives.

The Right Speech

Communication is critical to effective influence in an environment of self-determining agents who will choose to compete or collaborate with your Knowledge Management initiatives. For example, suppose we as Knowledge Managers cannot communicate using the language of those who will use and shape our products and services. In that case, we cannot deliver meaningful and valuable Knowledge management initiatives—that simple.

In other words, if, for example, you want to make work-life better for the Programme Management Office, then you need to speak the language of the PMO. If you don't, you will be less likely to get the engagement, involvement and influence necessary to create meaningful and valuable KM products and services for the PMO.

The Right Action

Knowledge Management is a single or group of agents competing and collaborating with other agents in a Complex Adaptive System. As such, Knowledge Managers need to adopt the correct methods for the environment.

For example, understanding theories and practical methods for engaging and motivating people is critical to delivering a high-impact KM initiative. In another example, understanding the need for and designing feedback loops that enable The Right View, The Right Intention and The Right Speech is mission-critical for every KM initiative.

Read: The FBI Behavioural Change Stairway

Read: Self-Determination and Overcoming Resistance to Change

The Right Livelihood

What value is KM creating? Because every action taken by Knowledge Management comes at a cost, where an expenditure of resource or energy will bring about a negative or positive payoff for the user of KM products or services.

These KM actions aggregate to create a sense of meaning and value; KM influences work-life for the better when it cocreates positive payoffs from its products and services. It then follows that if KM exists to amplify positive payoffs, then Knowledge Managers have to positively drive adaptation (change) using The Right Actions to bring about The Right Effort.

Read: FAIRR Reporting for Measurable KM Results, Impact and ROI

Read: Probability Reporting

Read: The KM Change Delta

The Right Effort

If Knowledge Management exists within a Complex Adaptive System, then The Right Effort means that KM services will need to adapt to meet the emerging needs of the environment. As such, the KM environment is not static. Therefore, if a KM initiative stands still, it will create the opportunity for drift, disconnect, displacement and dissatisfaction - it will not create The Right Livelihood. Instead, KM should be in a constant state of becoming, where products and services exist in a continuous state of improvement and creative destruction.

Read: The Agile Learning Leader

Read: Knowledge Manager - Change Manager

The Right Mindfulness

Go back to the core truth for any Knowledge Management initiative, in that it exists within a Complex Adaptive System. Therefore, to manage change, to effectively influence competing and collaborating agents, emotional (EQ), Social (SI) and Cultural Intelligence (CI) are critical capabilities for any Knowledge Management team. You cannot adequately observe, engage and involve agents in the system without these core capabilities, which should be must-have functional expertise for any KM team.

Read: Applied Emotional Intelligence

Read: Applied Cultural Intelligence

The Right Concentration

Stating the obvious, Knowledge Management cannot deliver a high-impact user experience (UX) without engaging and involving users. Furthermore, you cannot build a high-impact Knowledge Management initiative through the eyes of a single agent, which means adopting heterogeneous approaches to the conception, design and delivery of KM products and services. Therefore, any effective KM initiative requires engagement and involvement with the requisite variety of users of KM products and services to overcome the variety of user types in the environment within which KM seeks to survive and thrive.

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If you have been struck by The Eighfold Path for Knowledge Management and would like to collaborate or partner with me, contact

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