Deploying the new knowledge media
“Knowledge management” is not about the management of knowledge but is the management of the uses of knowledge to gain advantage in human endeavours.
Prof. T. D. Wilson, and Karl-Erik Sleiby claim that knowledge cannot be managed as it exists in the human mind and is not documented as is information, but is possessed by all and used by all. Wilson’s position is that “the knowledge management idea is that it is, in large part, a management fad promulgated mainly by certain consultancy companies, and the probability is that it will fade away like previous fads.”
The use of knowledge includes knowing how, what, when and where to do whatever needs to be done. It also includes the invention or discovery of new knowledge. Knowing is based upon data, facts that can be organized into what can be termed information that has meaning within the context of the organizational frame of reference. Data are the seeds which when fertilized by imagination and experience can grow into knowledge. Based upon information and the user’s experiences, insight can be achieved and the user will then “know.”
This has existed for centuries, so what is new? And what does all this have to do with security and defence?
The new knowledge media is a foundational critical infrastructure of today’s economic and human society and we must learn how to use it to advantage and protect its resiliency and trustworthiness. Modern SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems, vital to the ongoing operation and control of much of our critical infrastructure – electrical power grids and oil pipelines – are using this new knowledge media. The security of our society, way of life and national defence are fundamentally linked to the effective and efficient use of that media.
The corporate aspects of security and defence need to adapt to the networked world of the 21st century. The operational aspects of security and defence, in particular command and control, have situational awareness knowledge use and influence as an essential activity. In both business and defence operations, we must be able to estimate the current situation based on a restricted number of observables. We can use these observables, including present and trend information, for the analysis of possible options and outcomes of operational decisions. The accuracy of these operations is key to a secure and stable society.
To better understand the current situation and why we are not confronted by “just another management fad,” it is instructional to review some of the insights published by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960’s, specifically the famous phase “the medium is the message.”
Computers interconnected over distance have caused a fundamental change in human dynamics within business and society. These interconnected networks of information management, discovery, storage and sharing devices have become a new “knowledge media.” They have changed how we use, discover, invent and share our knowing both in business and in human relations.
The available tools have greatly expanded into an “instant” international capability, available to the mass of the population. A revolution in knowledge affairs happened with the invention of the printing press. A new revolution in human knowing has started with the deployment and refinement of the new knowledge media. It is important to note, however, that this revolution is not uniform: approximately 80 percent of the world’s population has never heard a telephone dial tone let alone of “Internet access.” Moreover, computer skills and literacy are fundamental requirements for the connected generation.
The real value for corporations, the military and society will be generated by creating environments that enable all people to create and share knowledge. This can only be done by building on the one renewable resource available in organizations: knowledge.
Corporate culture and the competition model remain the largest impediment. While shared knowledge can be powerful, corporate reward systems are often based upon a paradigm in which salaries and status are generally determined by the size of the organization, the amount of money or number of people managed by an individual and not the criticality of the value of the knowledge use skills and contribution that can or is being made toward corporate success.
The value of knowledge is both cognitive and contextually dependent. Any knowledge acquired has a value proportional to an individual’s ability to process it. The more a person knows, the greater meaning it will have, the better the individual will be able to use it. The context within which knowledge is used will likely increase the “value” of that knowledge. A little knowledge that is acted upon is of greater value that a lot of knowledge that is hidden in the “archives.”
Chun Wei Choo, in discussing the “knowing organization,” identifies three modes of organizational information use as:
· sense making – the seeking out of a meaningful context for action, information interpretation;
· knowledge creating – knowledge gap identification, converting and combining tacit and explicit knowledge, the creating of new capabilities, innovations; and,
· decision making – search and selection of alternatives, guided by premises, rules that lead to goal direct action.
While the “value” of knowledge might be difficult to define precisely, there is no doubt that it will grow in importance for both individuals and organizations. The management of knowledge use in the era of the new knowledge media is an employee skill that needs to be valued and rewarded in this evolving era.
In investigating the management of knowledge use, we must consider some of the components from which knowledge can be built. Data when collected, put into context and organized can be viewed as creating information. If this information is combined with experience and an individual’s perspective, knowledge can result for the beholder. Combining knowledge with judgement leads to understanding or even wisdom. Knowledge first needs to be created in an individual’s mind and subsequently documented in another form, such as words, images or film and video. Literacy, local culture and traditions are important considerations in gathering and sharing the knowledge.
Hirotaka Takeuchi presents a perspective of knowledge, explicit and tacit. For western management, knowledge is usually explicit in nature, formal, systematic and can be expressed in words and numbers. In the Japanese culture, the view is that this “knowledge” is only the beginning and that knowledge is primarily tacit, not easily seen or expressed. Because such knowledge is highly personal and hard to formalize, it is difficult to share with others. Subjective insights, intuitions and hunches fall into this category. These are rooted in people’s experiences and also include their ideals, beliefs, values and emotions. They are culturally dependent on both the society and its institutions. Accordingly, tacit knowledge can be extremely valuable to any organization. Managing it is a challenge that any organization wishing to excel must face.
Knowledge can be used to create product, develop new capabilities, and allow staff to achieve greater situational awareness and to better focus on action-oriented decisions. These goals require dealing with explicit and tacit knowledge and the development of different ways to use, develop and share them. Key to corporate and personal success in the 21st century is good knowledge use management for:
· sense making – the seeking out of a meaningful context for action, information interpretation and generation of a good situational awareness at the tactical, operational and strategic levels;
· knowledge creating – knowledge gap identification, converting and combining tacit and explicit knowledge, the creating of new capabilities, innovations;
· decision making – search and selection of alternatives, guided by premises, rules that lead to goal direct action;
· physical and/or intellectual product generation – know-how to generate a sellable item to clients; and,
· personal and corporate resiliency – expanding knowledge assets so as to facilitate adaptability on a proactive basis.
While these five embody the value of knowledge within a particular contextual and cognitive environment, it is important to keep sight of the explicit and tacit nature of knowledge. Computers and databases are of value in the management of information. More recently they have been used to facilitate the socialization exchanges. The use of Facebook, YouTube, “texting” and Twitter is developing a new paradigm in the human-to-human exchanges.
In terms of the Canadian Forces, it has been noted by LGen Andrew Leslie that in preparing the Army for 2021, the focus is on an adaptive force that is JIMP-enabled (Joint, Interagency, Multinational, Public). To be able to operate in this dynamic and complex environment, the Canadian Army must continue to evolve as a very heavily “digitized” Army, “a learning organization” that makes heavy use of the new knowledge media as well as the added access to real-time “open-source” intelligence.
A changing, dynamic situational awareness for complex operational environments will continue to be a high priority with all branches of the CF, police and emergency agencies. As our interests in Arctic region resources grow, so will the need for Canadian controlled knowledge of what is there, what is happening and what could happen in the Arctic region claimed by Canada.
There can be no doubt that the security and defence of our society and way of life is critically interdependent upon the well being, control and development of this new knowledge media. Our way of business, social, and government functioning life will continue to evolve. The media is the message.
Dr. J. LeRoy Pearce is a professor of business administration at TUI University (firstname.lastname@example.org). He was formerly the Director General of Knowledge Management and Innovation in the Information Management Group at National Defence.
For the full length original version of this article, please see www.vanguardcanada.com/TheNewKnowledgeMediaPearce