Over the Christmas hols my husband and I, for the first time in almost 20 years of marriage, spent two uninterrupted weeks together. At home. Alone. And that’s why knowledge management is the topic de jour this month.
At first pass it might sound like a bit of a stretch, but those two weeks convinced me once and for all that in the Kennedy household I’m the CKO. In fact, other than the Petaluma and occasionally the Screw Pull my better half hasn’t the foggiest idea of where anything is, but he knows I do. That’s why I spent two solid weeks providing ad hoc directions to such things as: where he left his Palm Pilot (on the back seat of the car); where the French’s mustard was in the fridge (even though he was the one standing there with the door wide open); where the tool-box was currently residing (at the apartment of one of our children), and where the lawnmower was parked (although, I’m still not convinced this was a lack of knowledge).
It was, shall we say, an epiphany. Yep, there’s nothing like two solid weeks with your husband asking, Where’s this? and Where’s that? to make you start thinking about applying KM domestically. So, as a long-time proponent of knowledge management, and as someone who’s devoted more than a few pages to KM in this magazine, I decided to go back and read some of the KM stories in CIO.
Know what I discovered? As a rule it’s the most namby-pamby bunch of information ever.
Here are some typical CKO comments: “We have a lot of human/intellectual capital and need to capture it.” “The new economy of knowledge-based business has arrived.” “We have the need to access best practice.” “Knowledge is the basis of competitive advantage.” BUT NO ONE EVER SAYS EXACTLY WHAT THE HELL IT IS THAT THEY ARE CAPTURING. It’s the best kept secret in the entire world. I mean at least give me a hint.
Here’s what I’d really like to hear, say, from a legal firm. “Well, what our CKO did was codify all the knowledge of one of our most senior partners. It took about a year, but now we just hire a bunch of year-10 school leavers, give them access to our KM portal along with funny little wigs and send them off to court. Saves a heap of money, but we’re making a motza on billable hours.”
And what about that other bastion of KM, the recruitment companies? Let’s face it, these organisations, which have supposedly captured all this best practice knowledge, are single-handedly responsible for keeping every IT worker over the age of 26 out of work. I strongly suspect that some vengeful child of ageing stoner hippies is seeking retribution by contributing “Never trust anybody over the age of 30” to the knowledgebase?
So I’m saying it loud and I’m saying it proud: The idea of codifying knowledge is a bunch of hogwash. Phooey on you KM.
I know I’m gonna get a heap of grief about all this. I hope I do — maybe some CKO out there will finally tell us all some cold hard facts. Human/intellectual capital? Kiss my patootie.
The only knowledge I am adding to my domestic database is where everything is that my husband might remotely want some day. Other than that, I’ve decided it would probably be a good idea for both of us to retire around the age of 85.