As I wrote before, I visited the KM in Europe 2002 convention in London November 13-15th. On the last day Karl Erik Sveiby held his key note speech. I did not find time before to make a report from my hand written notes, so I’m doing it now. The powerpoint presentation (even though he thinks powerpoint is a very bad way of ‘pushing’ information at people) of Sveiby’s talk can be found at the KM Europe download page. You will also find all the other key note presentations there.

Sveiby started his talk with an exercise: close your eyes and touch your nose with your right index finger.
About 3 people couldn’t. Now talk your neighbour trough the same exercise by giving him precise instructions on what to do. About 3 people could. That, says Sveiby, is the difference between knowledge and information. So to him all knowledge is implicit.

“Knowledge is the capacity to act within context.” Both the emphasis on action and context are important I think. He then continued to define KM, a term coined by Karl Wiig in 1986, something Wiig “now bitterly regrets”. Sveiby defines KM as the management of a company/organisation that consists only/mostly of “knowledge workers”. Knowledge workers here are highly educated, highly skilled and experienced. So to Sveiby not everybody is a knowledge worker, as can be heard quite often lately. The latter would also render the term useless by the way, as it does away with all the distinctive qualities of the phrase. The next step was connecting the definition of knowledge to the definition of KM. In essence he closely follows his own 1997 book The New Organizational Wealth. He talked of internal structures, external structures and competences in both the book and his speech. However, where in the book all three are presented more or less at once, in his speech he explained more clearly the way internal and external structures come forth from individual competences. And this deepened my own insight.

As an individual uses his knowledge, his capacity to act within context, to do just that, act, he “stretches” himself into the outside world, he is reaching out. The result of this, relations, transactions, etc, are the external structures. It is by putting individual competences to use that external structures are built. So now you have two circles, competences and external structures, with a two-way link between them.
The third circle, internal structures is added as you become succesful in the outside world. You start to need other people to help you, you start building an organisation. The internal structures are the translation of your own individual competences into a larger scale. This cluster therefore has a two way link to your own competences, but also starts to interact with the already existing external structures in its own right. You end up with three circles, each dually linked. Value is created in the overlap of all three circles, and is the product
of all interaction taking place. The one thing I value the most in this description is that it takes the individual as a starting point. This also emphasizes to me that humans are at the heart of KM, whatever the IT-boys might
think. (Sveiby: “Alas, Knowledge management has been hijacked by IT”)

The three circle picture identifies 10 strategic issues. One for each circle in itself
(3), two for each two way connection between circles (6), and the tenth is the overall question how the value creation capacity of the whole system can be maximised. In the sheets, examples of all ten strategic issues are described. I will give a list of them here: The three circles:

  • Individual competences: Improve the transfer of competence between the
    people in our organisation
  • External structures: Support our customers’ conversation with their
  • Internal structures: Integrate systems, tools, processes and products

The two-way links between each pair of circles:

  • External to Competence: transfer competences to customers, suppliers and
    other stakeholders
  • Competence to External: learn from customers, suppliers and other
  • Internal to Competence: improve individuals competence by using systems,
    tools and templates
  • Competence to Internal: convert individually held competence to systems,
    tools and templates
  • Internal to External: allow customers and suppliers to learn by accessing
    our systems
  • External to Internal: use competence from customers and suppliers to add
    value to our systems processes and products

And, as mentioned above the tenth
strategic issue is

  • how the value creation capacity of the whole system can be

You can now proceed by identifying bloccades on each of these ten issues. Sveiby gave some good and bad practices he encountered concerning these ten issues. The last part of his talk was about the benchmark system he helped
make, the Collaborative Climate Index. In three years of testing, with 20 questions, 12.000 respondents in 80 organisations he created a database for benchmarking. Some of the general results can be seen in the sheets. Most of what is described above, you are propably already dealing with in some way or another in your organisation. But not consciously as Sveiby pointed out.

And that is precisely what I am constantly pleading for: conscious choice making, based on self knowledge (in this case of your competences). Sveiby also named trust as the one vital ingredient for knowledge sharing. One last remark that Sveiby made: “Value is independent of the way it is
.” Euro’s and Dollars are not equal to value, but merely one way of trying to measure it.