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.