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.