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Knowledge Management and Networking

October 25, 2012

The contracts and commercial community is not good at sharing knowledge and this inhibits everyone’s performance. In spite of the tools we have available to us, most practitioners remain locked into learning either through their own experience, or from conversations with a narrow circle of current and former colleagues. Networked technologies are not a significant source of information or of testing ideas.

Th3se highly generalized observations come from my experience at IACCM, both observing utilisiation rates of message boards, learning communities etc., and based on conversations with senior management from our Corporate Members. Everyone agrees we could all be more efficient and mroe creative if only we would get better at sharing and communicating.

It is with these observations in mind that I enjoyed reading a recent blog in Logistics Viewpoints. Adrian Gonzalez described an occasion when he created a discussion forum and invited 25 supply chain managers to post their questions and to benefit from sharing ideas. Just two of them had questions to pose (he doesn’t mention how many replied). And it seems that this problem of low participation rates is endemic.

Adrian cites an article suggesting the core issue may be the inability of many people to ask questions. “Asking questions is a skill that many people lack”. I think this may be part of the explanation. Certainly some people are reluctant to admit ignorance or seek opinions or directions from others. But it does not account for why so few read the questions or provide feedback. The problem seems to be more about a general lack of participation than a lack of intelligent questions.

I have also observed cultural and (not surprisingly) generational differences. Younger people, raised in the networked age, are more likely to use technology to pose questions – though I suspect even they tend to do it within confined networks. Across cultures, the IACCM data suggests that countries where functional and professional expertise is still emerging are far more likely to use electronic methods of outreach and learning. India is perhaps the most obvious example, being a culture that also has the benefit of good English skills that facilitate engagement on international forums.

I would like to ask your opinion about why participation levels in knowledge generation are not higher – but of course you would not be a representative audience, since you are reading this electronic  medium in the first place!


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