Archive for the ‘km’ Category
Social media demands knowledge management to refocus on broad participation and the active role of individuals as both consumers and contributors at the same time. To make sense of these developments within organisations, knowledge management approaches need to connect the dynamic and fluid social media interactions of individuals and in informal communities with stability and institutionalization in a formal organisational environment.
Towards that end, knowledge maturing is a novel perspective on knowledge creation in and across organisations. The knowledge maturing model contributes to theories of organisational knowledge creation by structuring the collective development process into characteristic phases which are not passed in a strictly linear way.
The x-axis of the model describes how knowledge moves through the four scopes of interaction individual, community, organization and society. The y-axis describes the abundant ideas entering the knowledge maturing process and the organisation’s focus of attention which is wide in the beginning and narrowed down along the phases
- I. Emergence. Individuals create personal knowledge by pursuing their interests in browsing abundant knowledge spaces inside and beyond the organisation, opening up for new knowledge and the changes it might bring about. Knowledge is subjective, deeply embedded in the originator’s context and the vocabulary used for communication might be vague and restricted to the originator. Based on the findings of our studies, we revised this phase to include two sub-phases, exploration and appropriation.
Ia. Exploration: New knowledge is developed by individuals either in highly informal discussions or by browsing the knowledge spaces available inside the organisation and beyond. Extensive search and retrieval activities often result in loads of material influencing creative processes of idea generation.
Ib. Appropriation: New knowledge or results found in the exploration subphase that have been enriched, refined or otherwise contextualised with respect to their use are now appropriated by the individual, i.e. personalised and contributions are marked so that an individual can benefit from its future (re-)use. While many initiatives for knowledge management have focused on sharing knowledge or even detaching knowledge from humans as “media”, individuals also require support for appropriation, at least in a more individualistic culture.
- II. Distribution in communities: The first phase in the scope of communities describes interactions between individuals driven by social motives and the benefits that individuals typically attribute to sharing knowledge. These are, among others, belonging to a preferred social group, thus increasing the probability of getting back knowledge from the community when one needs it. Distribution is not meant in the sense of a one way street of individuals contributing new knowledge that they have committed to. The phase includes discussing the new knowledge, negotiating its meaning and impact, co-developing knowledge, convincing others and agreeing plus committing to the knowledge as collective. From the perspective of semantics, a common terminology is developed and shared among community members.
- III. Transformation: Artefacts created in the preceding phases are often inherently unstructured and still highly subjective and embedded in the community context which means they are only comprehensible for people in this community due to shared knowledge needed to interpret them. Transformation means that knowledge is restructured and put into a form appropriate for moving it across the community’s boundaries. Structured documents are created in which knowledge is de-subjectified, sometimes formalised using established containers and context is made explicit to ease the transfer to collectives other than the originating community.
- IV. Introduction: Knowledge is prepared with a specific focus on enhancing understandability, handed on and applied in an ad-hoc manner in trainings in which a selected group of users is instructed using didactically prepared material. We found two primary interpretations of this first phase in the scope of organisation, i.e. (1) an instructional setting called ad-hoc training and (2) an experimental setting called piloting.
- IV1. Ad-hoc training: Documents produced in the preceding phases are typically not well suited as learning materials because no didactical considerations were taken into account. Now the topic is refined to improve comprehensibility in order to ease its consumption or re-use. Individual learning objects are arranged to cover a broader subject area. Tests allow to determine the knowledge level and to select learning objects or learning paths.
- IV2. Piloting: Typically, not every implementation detail can be foreseen in the transformation phase. Knowledge is arranged in a way so that it can be applied in a dedicated, specific experiment involving not only the creators of knowledge, but other stakeholders. Experiences are collected with a test case before a larger roll-out of a product, a service to an external user community, e.g., customers or stakeholders, or new organisational rules, procedures or processes to an organisation-internal target community such as project teams, work groups, subsidiaries or other organisational units.
- V. Standardisation: The knowledge is further solidified and formally established in the organisation to be used in repeatable formal trainings, work practices, processes, products or services. As in the introduction phase, we distinguish an instructional setting with standardised training activities, called formal training, and an experimental setting turning pilots into standard organisational infrastructure, processes and practices, called institutionalisation. The term standard, finally, can also refer to external standardisation initiatives which are similar for both settings, transcend the organisational boundaries and move knowledge maturing to the scope of societies.
- V1a. Formal training: In an instructional setting, the subject area becomes teachable to novices. A curriculum integrates learning content into a sequence using sophisticated didactical concepts in order to guide learners in their learning journeys to capture a subject area thus increasing the probability of successful knowledge transfer. Learning objects are arranged into courses covering a broader subject area. Learning modules and courses can be further combined into programs preparing for taking on a new role or for career development.
- V2a. Institutionalisation: In the organisation-internal case, formalised documents that have been learned by knowledge workers are solidified and implemented into the organisational infrastructure in the form of processes, business rules and/or standard operating procedures. In the organisation-external case, products or services are launched on the market. They are institutionalised into the portfolio of products and services offered by the organisation.
- Vb. External standardisation: The ultimate maturity sub-phase is very similar for both paths, the instructional and the experimental path, and covers some form of standardisation or certification. On an individual level, qualifications and certificates confirm that participants of formal trainings achieved a certain degree of proficiency which is comparable across institutions. On an organisational level, certificates allow organisations to prove compliance with a set of rules that they have agreed to fulfil. Concerning products and services, certificates show compliance to laws, regulations or recommendations that can, should or must be fulfilled before a product or service can be offered in a certain market.
Maier, Ronald, Schmidt, Andreas
Explaining organizational knowledge creation with a knowledge maturing model
Knowledge Management Research & Practice, vol. 2014, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1–20
Today I have been invited by Fridolin Wild (KMI, Open University, UK) from the TEL-Map project. They produce short videos on key projects in the field of technology enhanced learning. I had the honour and challenge to present four years of MATURE in 5 mins. Finally I have managed to present it in 5:30, but that’s still an achievement. The video is planned to be published in January, but here is already the script:
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.
Ever since I have been engaged in technology enhanced learning (at that time, most of it was called e-learning), I have been suspicious about viewing learning only to happen in formal, dedicated learning activities (such as university courses, business trainings and seminars – or e-learning courses). Jay Cross has made the 80-20 paradox popular: 80% of learning at the workplace happens informally, while only 20% of budget goes into these activities. Within Learning in Process, we had tried to integrate more formal with informal learning activities through a recommendation approach that blended formal and informal opportunities. This has led to a more holistic perspective to the various forms of learning: the knowledge maturing model conceptualized the characteristics of learning dependent on the maturity of the knowledge an individual interacts with, from creative idea generation to teaching novices about standardized topics. It has helped to understand how diverse approaches to supporting learning of employees fit together, such as human resources development, knowledge management, e-collaboration, and idea management. We have explored this from a empirical and design perspective within the four years MATURE IP, which is now continued in the Knowledge Maturing Consulting Networkfrom a practical perspective.
Over the last five years, my research has focused on knowledge maturing, a macroscopical perspective on knowledge development that clearly points out that
- knowledge (and associated learning processes) have different characteristics depending on the maturity of knowledge, which also helps to explain how different areas like creative and collaboration support, knowledge management, and e-learning and training, how formal and informal learning relate to each other
- a knowledge development process is not continuous (as it should be), but is faced with various characteristic barriers between maturity phases
Together with various European partners (as part of the MATURE IP), we have created a thorough understanding of knowledge maturing, based on empirical studies (ethnographic, interview, case study) and participatory design processes (following a design-based research methodology). We have amalgamated this into a knowledge maturing model landscape. Based on the feedback we received and the experiences we made, we are also now offering a consulting and training offering with a network of experienced consultants.
All of this is now presented under a single point of access: knowledge-maturing.com. There will be also a German speaking version under wissensreifung.de and wissensreifung.ch. Both versions are are currently heavily under construction.
The last days I was at the Professional Knowledge Management conference in Innsbruck, organized by Ronald Maier and his team (really well done!). While there were respectable ~150 participants (with a lot of “known faces”), it is also obvious that knowledge management is no longer a hype topic. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially because among the participants there was a consensus that this event provides value to the participants in terms of exchanging ideas.
The hot topics (some which have been around for quite some years) from my perception were:
- social software and its sibling enterprise 2.0
- human factors of knowledge management
In addition, leadership has emerged in many places although little concrete contributions could be spotted (apart from the keynote talk by von Krogh). Definitely not a hot topic was technology as such, and I could even sense a lot of aversion against too much technology in the field. Particularly, anything related to AI was not welcome at all at the conference – although it was raised in some discussions. This reaffirms the shift of knowledge management from technology towards human and organizational factors. While I would agree that this is a good path, the conference has also shown to me that we are still struggling in research with its implications on research goals and methods. Definitely it will mean more empirical research (like we started in the MATURE project), particularly beyond questionnaires with the use of ethnographic methods and case studies (like Koch & Richter do). For more technology-oriented research, this will probably increase the importance of design research approaches. Definitely, we still more maturity of knowledge on this new paradigm of knowledge management that goes beyond rather generic principles.
I had the opportunity of giving an invited talk at the talkIT workshop, organized by the local “Standortagentur” of Tyrol. I have outline the implications of knowledge maturing on developing IT solutions (basically shifting models from design-time to run-time constructs) and on the competencies required for IT workers.
Together with my colleagues Christine Kunzmann and Athanasios Mazarakis, I have also organized the workshop on Motivational, Social and Cultural Aspects of Knowledge Management. For this workshop, I gave a keynote talk which summarized the findings of our empirical studies in MATURE:
There were great discussions in the workshop, but I have left with the impression that beyond common sense, we still know little about motivational, social, and cultural aspects in terms of implications for designing systems. I am looking forward to further research on the subject.
The paper was chosen due to its ubiquity; the work […] can help to address large-scale challenges in the areas of employment, economic success, an organizational competitiveness. Its insights regarding the links between Knowledge Maturing and the practical application of formal education have impressively broad base. […] It was chosen not only because of an interesting and important topic, but also due to its comprehensible language. The paper was found to be highly relevant to formal education, continuing development, policy making, and ICT/TEL industry. Furthermore, the stakeholder advisory board found it to have high potential with regards to exploitability, scalability, and transferability across Europe, as well as globally. The work described in the paper was evaluated as highly innovative with regards to pedagogical, organizational, and socio-cultural aspects.
(Picture courtesy of Paul de Bra)
Here are the slides:
While MATURE has always been inspired by bottom-up developments (and the concept of knowledge maturing has this an inherent assumption), we have always emphasized the importance of top-down activities as well. We have avoided to use the term “management” here, but rather used the term guidance for that. So far, we have mainly concentrated on value-based and valuation-based guidance (showing by appreciation what is considered good practice, which is usually subsumed in a notion of team/corporate culture), and structural guidance (i.e., the establishment and nurturing of communication structures). Furthermore, we have been struggling with potentials and dangers of incentive structures, mainly monetary/material and career incentives.
This week we were at the Professional Training Facts 2009 in Stuttgart (see here for a summary of MATURE activities at this event). This was a great opportunity to think and discuss about topics around competence development in company. One trend I have spotted was the increasing importance of indicators for competence development and the incorporation of those indicators into management instruments like management-by-objectives. At first sight, this always seems to be a good idea to “professionalize” the learning element in a company by making it measurable. This originates in the assumption that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”, which is probably true when you want to manage things. The approach promises transparency and can be a step towards calculating an ROI for learning. The big problem, however, does not lie in the approach of defining indicators and measuring them, but rather in the concrete indicators themselves. These indicators do not naturally naturally derive from the topic at hand, but are actually always bound to a notion of an ideal state; they contain the statement: you should have a high score in this indicator – this would be the best option. This is not bad as such, but this fact is rarely reflected, especially because this ideal state is actually context-dependent. It can be different for large vs. small organizations, for innovation-focused vs. efficiency-focused organizations, for service vs. production etc. What happens is that somebody defines (probably with good reasons) a certain set of indicators, and other simply take those indicators and apply them without questioning their value for their context.
What does this have to do with knowledge and knowledge maturing? This has three aspects:
- This “ideal state” conception as such is a body of knowledge, and it has to be carefully examine if the underlying knowledge about the ideal state is has reached a level of maturity that allows for a standardization in which you usually simply take things and apply them (like, e.g., for many financial indicators). Or if we are on a lower level of maturity and have to develop from there our own answer to the question “what is the ideal state”. In this learning and maturing process we have to learn about the contextual factors that differentiate us from others. And even if we take and apply standardized things, we should allow and encourage questioning usefulness at any time.
- Indicators are not only about measuring, they are about management and guidance. They aim at changing the behaviour by explicitly or implictly encouraging to become “better”. Even if we know sufficiently about the ideal state, do we know enough how a certain set of indicators (potentially tied together with a complex formula) influences the behaviour? Is our knowledge about that mature enough to make them the basis for formalized instruments (like reward schemes, but also career decisions)? Can we differentiate between correlations and causal relationships? Can we separate external factors? Or should be modest enough to consider them what they are: indicators that measure something, but not the wealth of reality, and use them as a reflection instrument – and in the end maybe come to the conclusion that they measure nothing of interest.
- We are currently researching indicators for knowledge maturing both in the empirical and the technical-conceptual strand of the MATURE project. We should be aware that indicators always derive from a concept of ideal state, which is difficult to envision as a whole. So we will base those indicators based on our pre-conceptions (which has a lot to do with our value systems) – and we should carefully reflect on this problem.
As a conclusion: measuring can be very helpful for many aspects, also on the soft side, but we should understanding the development and application of such measuring instruments as a collaborative learning process which should involve many. Then this process and its result can be also a good guidance instrument.
Last week we were at Graz, first for a MATURE Consortium Meeeting and then for the I-KNOW conference, which I always enjoy for its atmosphere. It is far more relaxed and suitable for networking with long lunch and coffee breaks in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the quality of the talks did not live up to my expectations based on previous years’ experience (despite the fact that the MATURE project contributed 7 presentations and one poster presentation). This is strikingly similar to the WM 2009 in Solothurn. Is this a (rather alarming) indicator that traditional knowledge management forums do not attract the top research contributions? Or is the topic as such no longer fashionable?
On the other side, the event hosted the kick-off event for the Special Interest Group on Professional Learning (www.sig-protel.eu), which tries to increase the visibility of the topic on a European level, first by better networking among the concerned European research projects like MATURE, APOSDLE, ROLE, and others. In the discussion, it has turned out that despite the ambiguity of the term, professional learning seems to be umbrella term for KM and workplace learning. This SIG is a promising sign for a maturing community.
This year, Christine and I were giving a talk on integrating motivational aspects into the design of informal learning support, which reported on our findings on how to integrating motivational measures into tools for informal learning (the paper is available from here). Christine has done most of the work in ethnographic studies and their analysis. Currently, together with our colleague Athanasios, they are struggling to integrate their ideas into the four demonstrators of MATURE Year 2 demonstrators.
On Thursday and Friday I had the opportunity to go to the OnlineEduca Berlin. It is a huge combined congress and fair with over 2.000 participants from more than 90 countries. For my taste, this is way too big – it creates an atmosphere of restlessness and anonymity where meeting people is possible, but you do not really feel like spending enough time on really exchanging ideas. Breaks are too short, sessions too many. But it appears that others do not share this opinion – otherwise they would not come to the event repeatedly.
Well, apart from that, there were interesting keynotes on the first day: Michael Wesch, a anthropologist from Kansas presentedwho managed that his home-made YouTube video became an incredible success (and he has since then produced several interesting ones! – my colleague Valentin already recommended one of them in his recent blog entries), but also Norbert Bolz (who was less entertaining, but also had interesting ideas) like the importance of self-branding.
While there was no single big conference theme, I gained the impression that the two big topics were serious games and (with some distance) mobile learning. There was some reference to personal learning environments (e.g., by Fronter) and the obligatory reference to Web 2.0, but few consequences could be seen.
I myself presented MATURE from an (almost) non-technical perspective, highlighting new approaches to guidance via the gardening metaphor and the necessity of a participatory culture:
Additionally, Gilbert Peffer from CIMNE organized a session on serious games for the financial domain (both for private financial decisions and for professional trader training), and provided a possibility to look into the upcoming xDELIA project (where FZI a is also involved both from the sensor side and from the perspective of experimental economics).
On the day before OnlineEduca, I participated in the ICOPER event on Competencies as the Currency for Learning, which aims at bootstrapping a standardization effort on competencies. More about that in the blog entry on the MATURE blog.