Organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of knowledge and its development. But their success has been limited. They have introduced knowledge, learning and competence management systems. But their approaches to systematically supporting learning have largely failed to live up to their promises. They lack employee acceptance and all too often degenerate into administrative exercises.
On the bright side, Web 2.0 approaches have shown that individuals are willing to collaborate, are willing to share their knowledge and are willing to help others. The challenge for organizations is to create an environment that makes use of these individual activities and that aligns them to a shared organizational objective.
At the core of MATURE is the knowledge maturing process as an integrated perspective. It follows the development of knowledge from an initial idea or vague thought through the discussion in communities and the transformation for wider distribution, via piloting up to institutionalisation and standardization. It consists of interconnected individual learning activities where the output of the first is input to the next.
The different phases of maturing have radically different characteristics which explain why learning looks different and why learning support needs to be different in each of the phases. While knowledge in later phases is more accessible to novices, experts in a field are productive in the early phases.
This perspective provides a landscape of the manifold forms of learning in organizations. It pins down the role of idea management, social media, human resource development and knowledge management. And it is an instrument for analyzing connections and barriers in between them.
This redefines many company processes and tools. In this respect, MATURE has particularly focused on the barriers in early phases that hinder wider participation.
One area is competence management and the knowledge about others‘ expertise. MATURE has used a lightweight people tagging approach where individuals can assign topic tags to each other. And by giving employees the opportunity to collaboratively develop a competence catalog, it bridges the early, highly informal phases with the later phases that require formal definitions. And it allows for topics appearing much earlier than before.
Another area is business process management. The development of process knowledge does not start with formal process models, but with individual and collaborative task management. By detecting and sharing patterns and adding experiences to them, it evolves into reusable guidelines that could eventually turn into prescriptive processes.
MATURE has successfully trialled new solutions that create more agile and dynamic environments. Topics disseminate much quicker into the organization, the creation of documents, taxonomies, or process models is much more agile. This increases the company’s capacities to innovate.
But it is also obvious that the knowledge maturing perspective challenges traditional company approaches and cultures.
Systems that are centered around administrating learning need to turn into systems facilitating learning. Instead of control, their internal models (such as catalogs, or process models) needs to be much more open to change by the individuals using the system. And these systems need to connect within a Learning and Maturing Environment.
The increasing adoption of enterprise 2.0 approaches is a promising sign that companies realize the importance of participation, but from a knowledge perspective, this needs to be complemented by an integrated view that makes sense of social media activity for the organization. Knowledge Maturing Indicators that have been developed within MATURE and can be derived from user interactions are crucial in this respect and pave the way for productive learning analytics at the workplace.
While there are a lot of technical issues in moving to a more dynamic and interconnected perspective, it is not only about technology. As the empirical studies have shown a change of the mindset on all levels of an organization is crucial.
We also need to move away from isolated approaches to learning. Knowledge maturing is not only about formal learning or informal learning, it is about viewing these two as interconnected, bridging departments and responsibilities.
MATURE has initiated a Knowledge Maturing Consulting Network as a catalyst for change to realize its vision of a learning rich workplace.