Let's turn down the noise and amplify Knowledge Management
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Knowledge Management is about developing acquisition, sharing application and development responses in three knowledge domains: simple, complicated and complex. If you are unsure about what I am speaking about, this brief expander video will help develop your uderstanding. To help further, consider that KM is a function of people and their experiences in a given time and space. I express this as KM = f(p x e x s x t).
Lower order Knowledge management work takes place in the simple domain. This is because question and answer portals are driven by one right answer, where no judgement is required. One right answer.
As we move away from this simple space we begin to introduce individual and group judgement.
Here is where Knowledge Management stresses and fails
because it focuses on the knowledge without consideration for judgement.
Take a typical Lessons Learned portal. The lessons focus on surfacing the knowledge of the outcome - the decision(s).
What about the individual or group judgement that brought the decision(s)?
This is why, most lessons learned from the complex knowledge domain are a waste of time. There are too many variables, known and unknown.
Too many visible and hidden connections and levels of connectivity to isolate critical knowledge.
Have you seen the UK Parliamentary review of the Government’s initial response to the Covid pandemic? It is damning.
“Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic - and the advice that led to them - rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced” (Sky News, October 12th, 2021)
From science advisors to Cabinet Ministers, nobody is immune from criticism in the Parliamentary Report - forgive the pun. Their conclusion: bad decisions were made.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing that drives an obsession with retrospectives and lessons learned.
Will hindsight prevent bad decisions being taken in the future?
Would different people have made the same decision?
Give us the ability to slow time using hindsight. Leave us to interrogate the variables that were considered. Let smart people expose the variables that were known, but unknown to the decision-makers. Let a different group of people from those who took the decisions to surface connections and discover connectivity, or lack of thereof.
Imagine if the original decision makers had the luxury of slowing time and space.
To stretch hours into months
Days into years.
They too would have made different decisions.
"Rushing to notice never works,
Nor does trying to notice.
Attention requires cunning passivity"
(Klinkenborg, Several Short sentences About Writing, p. 40)
Ask yourself, what can Knowledge Management do to create more meaningful value if not through lessons learned?
Start by bringing awareness to outcomes being a product of individual or group judgement.
Explore links between the decision and individual or group Beliefs, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, Experience and Talent.
I refer to this as the individual or team’s BASKET. The variety of BASKET required for good judgement rises in line with the number of variables, connections and connectivity.
If you have time - please, make time - I recommend exploring links here to Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety. For example, take any recent decision where judgement was a factor and consider what was done at the time to swarm the requisite variety of BASKET to get to improve judgement for the best possible outcome?
“If you notice something, it’s because it’s important.
But what you notice depends on what you allow yourself to notice,
And that depends on what you feel authorised, permitted to notice
In a world where we are trained to disregard our perceptions”
(Klinkenborg, Several Short sentences About Writing, p. 37)
Next, consider what Knowledge management can do to reduce what Kahneman, Sibony & Sunstein refer to as ‘Noise’.
Reducing noise in knowledge flows is an area that I have been working on for a number of years.
Noise can take many forms.
Think of an emotional response to a given decision and resulting attacks on individuals.
The focus on the individual creates noise.
The noise creator is missing what what has been noticed, observed, witnessed or testified.
The noise they create impairs judgement.
To reduce noise, I invented the Clarity Cube. It has been used to accelerate decision-making, problem solving and coaching conversations from project teams to executive committees.
The Clarity Cube is about noise attenuation.
When an in individual notices their response to a given position the Clarity Cube provides a framework for constructive challenge in six critical areas: vision/goals - values/beliefs - standards - evidence - logic - risk.
By focusing on these areas, Knowledge Management can reduce noise and improve knowledge and learning flows to improve individual and group judgement.
So, my fellow Knowledge Managers, what are you doing to turn down the noise and amplify Knowledge Management?