We are inviting proposals for papers, case studies, workshops and indabas to be presented at the 2016 Southern African Knowledge Management Summit (#2016SAKMS). The Summit will take place from 10-12 May 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The #2016SAKMS provides a platform to showcase and interrogate the strategic value and practices of knowledge management as a key management discipline for the 21st century. It also serves as an opportunity for leaders and professionals in the knowledge management realm to connect and engage in robust dialogue and meaning making, participate in stimulating deep dives, as well as learning about latest developments, opportunities and challenges in the field.

The following proposals are invited:

• Academic and practitioner-orientated papers will be considered. The evalution for papers will be done in two phases – firstly the abstract, and secondly the full paper in a double-blind peer review process. Successful papers and case studies will be published in the Summit Proceedings (digital only). Read the rest of this entry »

Ladies and gentlemen, as we come to the end of this Summit I must say that I hope that when we come together again, we have some very different conversations. We’re still talking about obstacles, we’re still talking about “knowledge management isn’t receiving enough attention”.

Which is a tragedy because the World Economic Forum has in February identified Knowledge as one of the key things for the world to be competitive, and the global environment to be competitive. The work of the world is evolving is such a way that knowledge, and knowledge skills are going to be paramount in being competitive in our careers. And it seems to me that top management is not yet paying enough attention to this.

There are articles written about how knowledge is the new capital – three or four years ago the previous president Thabo Mbeki wrote an extremely interesting article and delivered a keynote speech at Stellenbosch University about the value of knowledge and the importance of knowledge. And it seems to me that we are not really advancing.

At least, what I can say on a positive note, is that we’re not just taking about it anymore, at least there are some companies that are doing it – as you can see from the case studies presented to us. So at least we are talking from an action stage – what we think is knowledge management – and at least we are doing it.

Herman van Niekerk & Ryno Goosen at the Summit Dinner.

Ryno Goosen & Herman van Niekerk at the Summit. 

Which brings me back to a key question for this conference – have we maybe not lost focus on what is knowledge management? I spoke to Patrick (Lambe) last night and he quite interestingly referred to the article where he was talking about the antecedents of knowledge management, where knowledge management was coming from. And I’m wondering, is knowledge management not becoming everything for everybody? We tried to bring business intelligence under knowledge management, we tried to bring competitive intelligence under knowledge management, everything is being drawn back to knowledge management. Are we not losing the roots of knowledge management? Isn’t it maybe time to revisit knowledge management and see, what are those traditional roots?

Knowledge management – before document management came into the picture – was all about the capturing of tacit knowledge – the people aspect of it. Which now has obviously been made much easier with the use of technology that can enable that – like we’ve seen with the use of SenseMaker today – where we can start capturing that tacit knowledge. I’ve heard very little about that in terms of how we are going to move forward in capturing and using tacit knowledge. Isn’t that the key thing where we should focus on and keep our focus on?

The differences between knowledge management and business intelligence and competitive intelligence – the process is the same for all three – but the tools and techniques and the values for each of those disciplines differ fundamentally. Business intelligence is more about structured data, where CI and knowledge management traditionally was more about your unstructured data, your tacit knowledge. So I think it is time that we all sit back and reflect and see how can we all move forward, and emphasise the learning aspect, using technology to make us more competitive.

Because that is what we essentially need to do. I’m worried about South Africa, because I think as companies and as a country, we are lagging behind, every single day. We are not talking about the skills that people need to work with knowledge. I’ve recently become very involved with critical thinking – I don’t think there is even a university in South African that has included critical thinking in their curriculum. I’m not being negative – it’s about those cues that you are getting and those are the cues that are worrying me. So I’m not talking about this in a critical way – I’m talking about it in the sense that we need to tackle these issues and these challenges.

Let’s move knowledge management forward. It is of extremely strategic importance… I think that top management underestimate the strategic importance that knowledge assets in the organisation have – and how those knowledge assets should be optimised to make organisations and countries competitive.

The theme of the 2015 Southern African Knowledge Management Summit was the value proposition of Knowledge Management as a competitive strategy – an idea that is relevant for individuals, teams, organisations, sectors, countries and even for the whole Southern African region.

Our context and reality are all too clear – South Africa has fallen from 45th globally (in 2010) to 53rd last year and to 56th in 2015, out of the 144 countries measured in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Low rankings in basic primary maths and science education, higher education and training, labour market efficiency, unemployment and low levels of research and development lead to a slipping ranking in this and other productivity and competitiveness surveys. (Source: Africa Competitiveness Report).

Furthermore, our economies are outsourcing innovation and high-value industries, rather having most of their population engaged in low productivity sectors such as agriculture and commodity processing, which offer a little leverage in an increasingly competitive world. As one delegate commented on the Sensemaker journal: “(It is) really concerning that R&D funding is decreasing when 99.7% of all R&D happens outside of SA.”

The solutions to these national and regional challenges will not be solved by business, or government, or by the development sector alone. The 2015 KM Summit brought together voices from across these sectors, to explore the role of KM in Southern Africa’s quest for competitiveness…

The South African National Development Plan seeks to tackle many of these challenges, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, as highlighted by Dr Tshenge Demana, Chief Director: Industrial Development Division, DTI, in his keynote on Industrial policy as a platform for competitiveness.

The NDP includes:
• a 2-year National Infrastructure Plan with 18 strategic integrated projects, including green electricity generation, expanding access to communication technology and public transport;
• a Human Resource Development Strategy to maximise the potential of citizens to acquire knowledge and skills to be productive and competitive at work;
• a Technology Strategy that includes training 5000 PhDs annually, increasing R&D spending to 1.5% of GDP and encouraging donor funding of research and development;
• an Industrial Policy to provide extensive support to value adding manufacturing activities, to diversify economy away from primary resource dependence, and to diversify the economy to include historically disadvantaged people and regions.

This National Development Plan poses significant challenges to our country’s capacity, particularly as relates to the scare and critical knowledge demands it creates. For the NDP to succeed, “building people is as critical as building physical assets” and becomes a strategic national imperative” according to Philip Marsh of Knowledge Management Institute-Africa in his case study on Preparing for the scarce and critical knowledge demands of the much vaunted National Development Plan.

Davis Cook, CEO of RIIS, highlighted the need for Open Innovation – innovation practices that cross traditional institutional borders and facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing across a broad stakeholder network. Open innovation offers both as a tool for knowledge exchange as well as a source of competitive advantage.

“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. Chesbrough, Henry William (2003). Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Open innovation is particularly critical in regional and national development needs that cross traditional corporate/government divides, such as the open innovation platforms RIIS has built for The Innovation Hub in Gauteng and the East London Industrial Development, as well as Africa’s first cross border open innovation platform, Regional Connect, in partnership with the University of Namiba and the National Technology Business Center in Zambia.

Our case study exchange offered another two tangible examples of this paradigm of innovation and knowledge management.

Dr Gretchen Smith of Knowlead Consulting & Training offered a case on Implementing KM in a Provincial Government: Case study of the Limpopo Province. This story focused on the introduction of KM to a Limpopo Provincial Government “under siege” and the resulting significant benefits to competitiveness, including organisational learning, access to strategic information, increased process efficiency & improved service delivery.

Hanlie Turner (PPC) & Lucien de Koker (Firestring) offered a tangible example of this attitude to innovation in their Case study: Exploring the digital journey of the PPC Cement & Concrete Cube (C3)In the spirit of open innovation, this innovative ‘Cube’ platform facilitated streamlined collaboration and information sharing for industry stakeholders across the Cement & Concrete Industry. “PPC recognised the importance of information and knowledge management beyond traditional boundaries, to avail open platforms for collaboration.” – Lucian de Koker

The message of all of these speakers was clear: Southern Africa is a place of great challenges, but also great opportunities. To tackle these challenges will undoubtedly take cooperation across sectors to share knowledge, experience, resources and ideas… embracing emerging models such as Open Innovation into how we tackle our national strategic imperatives.

Sustainable competitive advantage for Africa will take increased sharing, collaboration and cross-boundary innovation – and who better to guide and lead this than the KM community!


Related links:
The role of the Knowledge Leader: a roundtable discussion

By Gretchen Smith & Ben Fouche

The recent South African KM summit held at the Roodevallei Convention Centre near Pretoria from the 27th to the 29th of May was one of the best events of its nature that we have ever attended. It brought together a wide spectrum of KM practitioners, academics, consultants and technology providers from South Africa and beyond. Not only did the programme cover a rich variety of relevant topics and issues in the field of knowledge management, but a variety of approaches in addition to formal presentations were used to create and hold the interest and participation of the delegates.

The mix of recognised local and international KM speakers and attendees/participants set the scene for lively small group discussions and interaction. In particular the presentations and contributions of Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge were highly regarded by all the delegates.  The summit clearly indicated that knowledge management is alive and healthy in the public and private sectors of the South African economy. It is our hope that the KM summit will grow in strength and that more participants in the Southern African subcontinent will attend.  This is necessary for the continuous development of the KM, organisational learning and innovative capacity of organisations in all sectors of the economy.

Related links:


Lucian de Koker preparing for the case study presentation.

Presenting PPC’s Cement & Concrete Cube (C3) as a case study exchange during the 2015 SA KM Summit, gave myself & Hanlie Turner the opportunity to interact with smaller groups.  This way it was much easier to demonstrate some of the functionalities of the Cube, despite the time constraints. Feedback highlighted that this Firestring / Ebsco partnership which culminated in the Cement & Concrete, was a very innovative initiative, while the questions asked by the various groups will help future developments. For example, confidentiality is obviously a concern of many users.

Whilst the user interface is fairly easy navigable with its Google-like search facility and a “LinkedIn” feel, the Cube presents numerous opportunities and benefits, not only for PPC employees, but also for stakeholders.

The format of the Case Study sessions was great, but as presenter we found it very short.





Lucian demonstrating the knowledge system to the delegates.

On Wednesday 27 May, Prof Adeline Du Toit and Dr Andrew Kok hosted the #2015SAKMS Roundtable discussion around the theme of creating effective transformational knowledge leaders.

A roundtable is an informal interactive format to engage in in-depth discussions with colleagues with similar interests, sharing problems and successes regarding knowledge leadership themes and issues.

Successful knowledge leaders each hosted a table with rotating groups of delegates and facilitated a conversation related to themes such as:

  • Promoting the knowledge agenda
  • Developing the knowledge infrastructure
  • Connecting, coordinating and communicating with providers of information and knowledge
  • Improving the process of knowledge creation
  • Measuring the value of knowledge in an organisation

The discussion identified needs, gaps and actions to strengthen knowledge leadership in our organisations, and concluded with recommendations on how to create the ‘ideal’ knowledge leader. In the voice of our community, through the knowledge leaders who summarised the insights from the roundtable discussions, we discovered a portrait of the Knowledge Leader of the future…

 “We need to be realistic. Given that you are the CEO and you have resource constraints, do you still see a role for KM? You have HR, Strategy and IT and you say ‘where is the role of KM now?’” –  Akhona Damane, Transnet Freight Rail

Knowledge leadership means different things for different people and different organisations, depending on their context, level of maturity and strategy.

“In terms of a KM strategy, you need to define where you are in your organisation and what you want to achieve. The critical factor is to make sure that the people in your organisation see that KM is an asset to the organisation – not just a nice to have or something we should do.” – Hein Spingies, Road Accident Fund

In fact, ‘context matters’ was a recurring theme through the roundtable and the #2015SAKMSknowledge management must align its approach and application to the organisation’s culture, strategic priorities and context. There is no one-size fits all approach.

“Most of the time, we put the cart before the horse.  We focus on the system – SharePoint etc – but we lose sight of the strategy, the need – what do we need knowledge management for? There might be a company that says we are not really going to innovate, or do a lot of R&D… then your knowledge strategy must focus on THEIR strategic imperatives – maybe that is a focus on quality, or low cost. Then you must align your KM strategy and approach to the organisation’s specific needs, bridging the gap between the strategy discussion and the technology one.” – Akhona Damane, Transnet Freight Rail

A key element of context was open innovation that includes customers – customer knowledge management, collaborating more with customers and linking knowledge management to customers for competitive advantage. For example, in co-creation projects, creating new services or improved products by bringing together knowledge from customers as well as internal resources.

“Innovation will follow learning. And we feel that learning is incredibly important. Innovation without a foundation of learning or knowledge is a buzzword.” – Olwynn Garratt, Fasken Martineau

Prof Kingo Mchombu reminded us of the story of the iPhone… “One of the things that needs to come out is the acceptance of genuine mistakes in innovation. If people always get it right, it’s not necessarily innovative. At iPhone, they were at first laughed at, but they learned from their customers how to get it right.”

Having explored these themes of leading innovation, learning and experimentation, the roundtable leaders were asked to reflect on the future of knowledge management in organisations in Southern Africa. The identified the key role of the knowledge leader including,

  • Being able to close the strategic gaps – ask ‘what are the business challenges?’ and bring knowledge management to bear on directly addressing those.
  • The future role of the knowledge leaders is as facilitators or instigators of KM across the organisation – collaborating and leading collaboration across organisational silos.
  • Leading innovation management, bringing the experience and principles of knowledge management into innovation management.
  • In essence, it’s about taking responsibility and building trust, amongst our profession, as well as in our different organisations.

The conclusion was that knowledge management is definitely not dead! Rather, it has a strong role to play in the competitive advantage of organisations, crossing over many siloes.

“Knowledge Management practices will be the thing that sets companies and organisations apart from each other into the future, creating competitive advantage. It does currently and as information and knowledge grows, this will only be more essential.” – Ronel Davel, SARS

Our roles as knowledge leaders in the future will be as facilitators or instigators, leading a knowledge management culture, processes and strategy across the organisation.

“It’s important as knowledge managers to realise that we are not going to change the whole company by ourselves. We need to tap into and make use of all the skills, expertise and knowledge in the organisation when it comes to creating a culture of knowledge sharing – HR, change etc.” – Ronel Davel, SARS

We were called upon to take ownership and being accountable – with many agreeing with Patrick Lambe’s bold comment that he would like to see the day when we as knowledge leaders can be sued for not taking accountability!

“To be a knowledge leader, you don’t necessarily need to be a librarian, or an alchemist. The key qualification as a knowledge leader is PASSION.” – Hein Spingies, RAF


—  Originally published by Akhona Damane on LinkedIn Pulse (June, 2 2015) —

Yesterday (27 May 2015) I was participating at the SAKMS (Southern African Knowledge Management Summit) in Pretoria, as a panel member at the Discussion on Knowledge Leader workshop. We had fun, and lots of learning with KM experts including Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge (Singapore), Prof. Adeline Du Toit (University of Pretoria) and Dr Andrew Kok (Western Cape Government).

Central to the deliberations was the question of the future of Knowledge Management. Earlier in 2015, one of the prominent KM expert in another conference raised the pertinent question of the future relevance of KM. He asked the question, “Is KM dying?”

This is the question that requires a well thought out response. In my response I am taking the South African context in mind given the initial adoption (excitement), followed by disappointments (due to slow returns on investment (unmet expectations), and indifference (an attitude held by some executives on the existence of KM in their organisations).

Some executives argue that they do not need KM. Reason being that they confuse it with HR or IT, due to lack of understanding and misconceptions. In some organisations, they have already made significant investments in other management interventions such as Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, etc.So they don’t see the need for KM.

Some early adopters have not seen the real benefits of KM since it was well marketed but the badly implemented. In some instances, a limited view of KM was introduced. For instance, KM was introduced as Records Management, or as Document Management System, or as Mentorship. These are instances when KM is presented with a single view; KM is a multi-faceted discipline.


Personally, I am of the view that KM is at high risk of extincting if we continue to take a single approach to it. However, if implemented holistically KM has a bright future. KM is not about to die anytime soon.

I have raised three points to support my argument:

(1) One of the ways we can ensure that KM remains relevant is when it answers strategic questions or business problems. One should have a meeting with the CEO / Executives and ask the proverbial question, “what are your top three business challenges or strategic issues?” And then devise a plan of how KM can assist in addressing such strategic issues.

(2) Innovation Management. The principles of KM must be applied in introducing or reviving the culture of Innovation within the organisation. There are limitless opportunities in operating Innovation with the KM principles of knowledge-creation, knowledge-sharing, in view.

(3) Customer Knowledge Management. KM needs to harness customer interaction opportunities, especially that the existence of the organisation depends on the customer. When you engage customers by sharing your knowledge as well as gathering their knowledge; this can assist in improving your service offerings. One of the most practical aspect is Co-Creation of solutions jointly with the customer as you engage in purposeful knowledge sharing.

Lastly, in future the KM professionals may need to consider changing the name  “Knowledge Management” to something like “Strategic Knowledge” discipline.

Once again thank you so much for organising this summit. The need for something like this was long overdue! I returned to work this morning inspired and filled with new ideas to implement in the organisation I work for.

As promised – herewith the feedback from our table as was discussed during the Knowledge Café:-

It started off with a very important question – is training / learning the task of KM or should it reside with HR / a Training department. We came to the conclusion that formal training should reside where it is ‘plotted’ in an organisation but it is still the task of KM to allow them the tools to learn and to distribute what they have learned on formal training sessions or seminars (TWAP- Travel With A Purpose).

Our table also felt that training (learning) through KM should be fun and that we should implement KM principles throughout the organisations we work by working closer with areas that claim to do training /learning.

From here we moved into practical examples of how KM is implemented in our own areas. I invite (challenge) my table to elaborate on this part as sadly I did not take notes and unfortunately I cannot remember everything in this regard!

identity-683963_640Knowledge Management has always sounded like a bit of a misnomer to me…  How do you “manage” something as organic, contextual and “nebulous” as knowledge?  Management always conjures up ideas of top-down, mandated processes; whereas knowledge (in the words of Dave Snowden) can only be volunteered, not conscripted.  The two concepts have just always seemed to contradict each other.

Time has proven me both right and wrong in different ways, and it’s been interesting to watch from the sidelines as the field of KM has evolved over the years.  At the same time I’ve also seen business evolve: especially in recent years concepts that business used to find hard to accept such as Complexity and Narrative have become part of the normal discourse.  Dave Snowden, my long-time mentor, will even be teaching an MBA elective on Complexity and Sense-making at Stellenbosch Business School later in the year.  The business context is changing, and therefore so should we.

My own journey has led me deeper into the fields of complexity and narrative, specifically as applied to culture and change.  I find myself focusing more and more on how human beings make meaning of their contexts and experiences through narrative.  I’m also realising anew how deeply that links to knowledge.  Much of what we’ve come to see as knowledge is part of rich meaning-making processes that human beings engage in all the time.  Some scholars see narrative as basically a linking of cause and effect in ways that allow us to make meaning of our life events. Over time this meaning making becomes the way we see the world and ourselves. These narratives of meaning don’t emerge in a vacuum, they are informed and co-authored by those around us, as well as larger narratives that inform our daily realities but are largely invisible to us.  For example, we might have stories about our identities as parents, whether we see ourselves as good/bad parents.  These are heavily influenced by the stories we hear from peers, our own parents, what we see on television etc.  But they’re also influenced by larger narratives such as the role of women and men; what success means in a capitalist society etc.

So in light of this, it is interesting for me to reflect on the field of Knowledge Management through this lens.  What are the stories of identity that we tell and privelage in this community?  What are some of the other subordinate stories that are seeking prominence?  What has the impact been of some stories gaining pre-eminence over others?  What are the unquestioned beliefs and assumptions that are almost invisible to us, yet has a tremendous impact on what we believe and the stories we tell?  These are some of the themes we will explore during the Re-authoring Knowledge Management session on the last day of the #2015SAKMS conference.

If these thoughts have stimulated some ideas or reflections of your own, please contribute those to our e-journaling tool, powered by Sensemaker.  You can access it here: http://bit.ly/2015SAKMSSenseMaker  or you can download the Sensemaker Collector App from the iStore or Playstore and use the activity code 2015SAKMS to access it on your Apple or Android mobile devices.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” —Mary Catherine Bateson, anthropologist

besigheidskaartjieThe 2015SAKMS team are pleased to introduce SenseMaker®, leading edge software created by Cognitive Edge, as one of the ways we will harvest and make sense of our experiences and learning through the Summit.

This powerful tool offers a simple way to capture, self-index and share small stories or micro-narratives, to help make collective sense of a particular theme or topic. At the 2015SAKMS, SenseMaker® will help us capture and weave together our shared exploration, and we invite you to share your stories, insights, ideas and reflections around Knowledge Management – both before and during the Summit.

Watch creator Dave Snowden introducing SenseMaker® in this video:

Share your stories

Whether you will be a SAKMS2015 delegate this year or not, we invite you to be part of the Summit experience by capturing your stories of insights, learning moments, encounters and shifts in your own KM journey. Please also share this opportunity with your colleagues, clients and other KM stakeholders to help us gather a broad range of stories!

There is no right or wrong way to share your stories, and it is better to share a number of smaller fragments than to try to create one long story. The tool offers you a range of options – including capturing audio or images to support or tell your story – and the process is designed to be simple and intuitive, needing no more than a few minutes per story. A full report will be published after the Summit for you to see the results.

Sharing your stories and knowledge is key to the development of our KM community. By using this tool, you will enhance the summit experience  and contribute to new insights in the field of KM, so please journal often!

Start Now

Download the SenseMaker® Collector app (from CognitiveEdge) on the Android or Apple Store.

  • The first time you open the App, it will request some information in a User Profile. Your entries are anonymous, but this information enables demographic analysis.
  • Once your profile is complete, go back to the app menu and select ‘Download Activities’.
  • Use the Collector App Code ‘2015SAKMS‘ to download our Summit survey template.

Begin to capture your stories of insights, learning moments, KM breakthroughs and challenges!

As an alternative to the app, you may use SenseMaker® online.

Read more about SenseMaker® and its applications on the Cognitive Edge website.

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