Busted! Knowledge Management Myths Revisited

Originally published on September 12, 2017

After presenting and writing about 16 KM myths in the past, I am now extending my list to add 20 more, and including lists from others. The first item below is my original list, and the second is the list of additions.

1. 16 Knowledge Management Myths Debunked

  1. Push it
  2. Someone else will do it
  3. KM is dead
  4. Incentives don’t work
  5. Roll it out and drive adoption
  6. Social is frivolous
  7. Don’t control
  8. Eliminate risks
  9. Be like Google and Amazon
  10. We need our own
  11. I don’t have time
  12. We should work ourselves out of a job
  13. Bigger is better
  14. Make people do it
  15. Everything is a community
  16. Our IP will be stolen

2. 21 More Myths

  1. Pay close attention to maturity models and industry benchmarks
  2. The best way to innovate is using ideation management to collect ideas
  3. Knowledge Management should be called something else
  4. The best way to locate expertise is to make people maintain skills profiles
  5. Leadership communications should be tightly controlled by Internal Communications
  6. Collect every possible metric, and focus on publishing cool infographics
  7. Certification in knowledge management is useful
  8. Personality tests help people to work better together
  9. Restricting information access on a “need to know” basis maintains security
  10. The DIKW pyramid is helpful
  11. It’s possible to definitively compute the ROI of a KM program
  12. Face-to-face meetings are not needed in the age of virtual meeting technology
  13. Communities can self-manage without the need for a community manager
  14. Enterprise search can be tweaked until it yields the desired results for any search
  15. Communities should rigidly enforce rules for what can be shared
  16. It is possible to fundamentally change the culture of an organization
  17. Enterprise Social Networks should be governed lightly or not at all
  18. Knowledge will be shared even if there is no trust
  19. The 90–9–1 rule of thumb for community participation inequality is defunct
  20. Best practices can be established
  21. Content should be automatically archived after 90 days

3. 10 Myths About Knowledge Management by Kathy Curley

  1. Knowledge management is an end unto itself.
  2. Knowledge management is just for professional services firms and other “intellectual” businesses.
  3. Knowledge management just means hiring smart people.
  4. Knowledge management means implementing expensive technology.
  5. Knowledge management means creating huge, unwieldy databases.
  6. Knowledge management is a “Field of Dreams” — just build it, and they will come.
  7. Good knowledge management is driven by a good chief knowledge officer or chief learning officer.
  8. Knowledge management is just for Americans.
  9. Knowledge management isn’t like other good management practices and processes.
  10. Knowledge management is a fad.

4. The 10 Myths About Knowledge Management by Lesley A Robinson

  1. Knowledge management is just another “management speak” fad
  2. Knowledge management is a huge financial investment
  3. It’s an IT problem
  4. It’s either a top down process or bottom up process.
  5. You cannot capture “knowledge” — it’s too intangible
  6. KM will consume too much time. Our people should be out winning work and making money instead.
  7. KM is impossible to measure so we will not be able to judge if it’s of value or not.
  8. Knowledge is power, so no-one will want to share their expert knowledge
  9. KM makes you focus internally; we should be focusing on our customers
  10. Put an intranet in place and KM will happen

5. The Seven Myths of Knowledge Management by Marc Rosenberg — Derrick Pope’s Version

  1. Knowledge management is about knowledge
  2. Knowledge management is about the technology
  3. The system should be so all-encompassing that it can cure cancer and end world hunger
  4. The goal is to create a document repository
  5. You can buy a ready-made system
  6. Knowledge management is about knowledge control
  7. If you build it, they will use it

6. Five Myths about Knowledge Management by Ian Windle

  1. The first myth is that it is based in information technology.
  2. The second myth is that knowledge management is new.
  3. The third myth is that knowledge management is a fancy new management tool.
  4. The fourth myth is that knowledge management is a passing fad.
  5. The fifth myth is that knowledge management is expensive to implement and makes no difference to the bottom line.

7. Knowledge Management: Dispelling Myths and Finding Directions by Amala Vijaya Selvi Rajan, Bridget Merliza Archibald, and Santhosh John

  1. Getting employees to share their knowledge is extremely difficult
  2. Knowledge Management is about technology
  3. Knowledge Management is exclusive to professional services firms and intelligent businesses
  4. Knowledge Management is only sustainable with the existence of a CKO

8. Six Myths About Knowledge Management by Avron Barr

  1. Knowledge Management is New
  2. Documents Contain Knowledge
  3. Expert Knowledge is the Most Valuable Knowledge and therefore should be managed first
  4. Knowledge Management Saves Money
  5. One Technology is the Best for Knowledge Management
  6. Knowledge is the Most Valuable Corporate Asset

9. 10 Destructive KM Myths by David Griffiths

  1. KM is technology: I can’t believe that this is still being discussed, but there you go. Look at the number of KM programmes run from an IT-Centric focus and you should start to feel concerned. Why are you interested in managing organisational knowledge resources? Dig and you’ll find that people create the centre of gravity for KM projects (it’s about people, people). For example, to make my point, there are those who develop/evaluate technology-focused Lessons Learned Systems without any consideration for how adults learn (lessons learned, without considering the focus of learning?). Go a step further and you will find tech companies who are still claiming that they can capture everything you know or, even better, capture x% of what an organisation knows — what is 100% of what you know? Can you express every aspect of a decision that required the use of judgement or inference? No? Then why do people still buy into unscrupulous technology snake oil salesmen dreams of total knowledge capture?
  2. KM is about developing tools: See #1. Tools enable KM processes, no doubt. But tools do not equal the sum total of KM. Keep asking, ‘why do we do KM’ and you can’t help but come to the conclusion that this is about people. For example, KM programmes that don’t take into account talent management programmes are, for want of a better way of putting it, naive. Explore people-centric KM programmes and you open Pandora’s Box. For many it’s just too scary. Taking this forward, want to know how to get people to share knowledge? It’s not about building better tools, it’s about complex concepts (e.g. understanding what motivates people or how adults learn). For many, the need to engage with KM is because they see knowledge as their core capability (especially for service driven firms and even if they cannot express it in these terms). With this being the case it has to be more than tools. Explore the capability you’re interested in; the very essence of knowledge is embedded within people. How does a focus on tools respond to the need to manage people, to manage talent?
  3. It’s okay to start with KM and worry about the rationale later: Rubbish. You can’t monitor, evaluate, measure or determine value for a project that exists because it is a good idea. At some point there is a day of reckoning. Find out why KM is important to the organisation. Who championed it? Why did they champion it? If they believe it to be ‘a good idea’, don’t accept this argument, do the research/analysis yourself and align the function with strategy and business goals. Don’t do this and KM is doomed to fail.
  4. Build it and they will come: KM is a good idea, so go forth, build us some tools and people will see the value. Really? You need to take the time to engage with stakeholders; understand the upstream and downstream needs. Engagement enables you to understand the needs of the individual, group, team and business unit. That understanding informs the ability to create a credible, logical and emotional need for change. Do that and you are off to a good start. Fail to engage and you’ll end up trying to retrofit tools to stakeholder needs and you will forever be fighting a losing battle. Tools bind the needs of the individual with the needs of the organisation — how well do KMers understand the values and/or needs of the individual users/stakeholders?
  5. The SECI and DIKW models are the foundations of the field: Please, I implore you, do the research. These models (Nonaka — Socialisation-Externalisation-Combination-Internalisation; Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom flow) are seriously flawed! Accept them as interesting concepts, but challenge the preachings of those who fail to explore the flaws in their thinking. Also, look at the time and place in which these models were ‘created’; a time when technology was evolving as a solution to all our knowledge needs. What better way to validate a technology-based approach to KM than by using models that demonstrate that knowledge can be externalised (even if the author manipulates the use of founding research to make his point) or that knowledge is part of a ‘flow’ that technology already responds to (data and information) — Microsoft SharePoint managed to convince the masses that this was the case using this approach.
  6. KM emerged in the 1990′s: KM is not from the 1990′s. I’m not talking about taking KM back to cave paintings, but KM, as a term, emerged in the mid 1970s. As a concept, the management of organisational knowledge resources has been discussed since the turn of the 20th century. Enough of the idea that KM is an emerging or recent idea.
  7. It’s okay for KMers to manage ‘parts’ in isolation (i.e. lessons learned): Complexity isn’t new, but it sits at the heart of the management of organisational knowledge resources. Complexity means that you have to understand and manage the whole; you cannot focus on reductionist management methods that focus on individual parts. ‘Experts’ who claim that not all KM systems are complex fail to recognise that the moment you have competition or cooperation you get complexity. Knowledge means dealing with people. Sharing knowledge involves a transaction. Even a simple conversation involves a minimum of two people where the communication of knowledge is subject to contextual variation. Ignore complexity and you miss the need to manage the whole. Miss that and you will have KM failure that you will struggle to explain or understand.
  8. It’s hard to determine value: Only if you haven’t established the reason for managing organisational knowledge resources and only if you don’t understand how to manage the boundaries of complex systems.
  9. KM is fuzzy and hard to define: Again, only if you don’t understand the wider organisational environment and KM as a response to that environment. KM is about 4 things: acquisition & storage (some speak of embedding/protecting), sharing, using and developing organisational knowledge resources against emerging strategic and operational needs.
  10. KM is dead: Even I have fallen into this trap. KM might not exist in its current form and the KM moniker might disappear, but it is certainly not dead. Explore the parameters governing the onset of Integrated Reporting in the world of finance and tell me that the management of organisational knowledge resources will not be of paramount importance over the coming years. Why did the US recently remodel the way it calculates GDP? Why are we seeing the emergence of ecosystem based risk models? The need to manage knowledge will not only endure, it will be critical.

10. Seventeen Myths of Knowledge Management by Steve Denning

  1. Knowledge is always a plus
  2. Knowledge always helps innovation
  3. Knowledge is sticky
  4. The concept of knowledge is infinitely extendable
  5. Knowledge can be transferred
  6. Knowledge-sharing is always a good thing
  7. Knowledge is more important than values
  8. People always want to have better knowledge
  9. The task of KM is to enhance the supply of knowledge
  10. There are structural solutions to the lack of demand for knowledge
  11. KM is the same for all organizations
  12. Knowledge is the only sustainable competitive advantage
  13. Knowledge management will transform the business landscape
  14. KM succeeded and no one knows it
  15. It was the IT vendors who killed KM
  16. The right question to ask is: how do you make knowledge-based organizations?
  17. Knowledge is the raison d’être for organizations and explains competitive advantage

11. 5 Knowledge Management Myths Debunked by Caitlin Zucal

  1. Knowledge Management Requires Expensive Technology
  2. Knowledge Management Isn’t MY Problem
  3. “If You Build It, They Will Come.”
  4. Knowledge Management Means Hiring Expensive People
  5. Knowledge Management Is a Fad

12. David Skyrme

A. Ten Myths Of Knowledge Management

  1. It’s New
  2. It’s a Fad
  3. It’s Just About Continuous Improvement
  4. It Must Be Led From the Top
  5. There’s no obvious pay-back
  6. Knowledge Centres are Libraries Relabelled
  7. The Main Obstacle is That People Won’t Share Knowledge
  8. The Best Ideas Are Generated in the Office
  9. The Internet is less Reliable Than the Corporate IT Network
  10. Knowledge Management is Mature

B. Knowledge Flows: Mainstream or Myths?

  1. Knowledge Can’t Be Managed
  2. Best Practices Aren’t Best Practices
  3. Communities Don’t Practice
  4. Storytelling Isn’t Just Telling Stories
  5. Expertise Directories Locate Your Experts
  6. A Portal is a Gateway to Knowledge
  7. What You Can Measure You Can Manage
  8. The Biggest Obstacle to Knowledge Sharing is Corporate Culture
  9. E-learning and KM are Two Sides of the Same Coin
  10. Increasing Creativity Will Increase Innovation

13. Top 10 Myths by Ed Rogers

  1. KM is an IT function and should be given to the chief information officer
  2. KM is really about databases
  3. KM is about centralizing knowledge content to use it more efficiently
  4. Communities of practice can be established by the top
  5. KM can be independent of the business process
  6. Knowledge management can be solved with the right software
  7. Anybody (who isn’t busy) can do knowledge management
  8. Knowledge management efforts can be outsourced
  9. Collaboration effort can be “purchased” or “sharing can be rewarded”
  10. Culture change can be mandated from the top

14. Nick Milton

A. 5 Myths of Knowledge Management — a critique

B. Wiki myths and realities

  1. A wiki will heighten motivation and spark contributions
  2. Employees will know how to contribute
  3. Wikis will always surface the information you need

C. Other myths

  1. The myth of “trial and error”
  2. The “No time for KM” myth
  3. The Millennials myth

15. A Vision on Knowledge Management by Mark Geljion

  1. Myth #1. KM is all about structures and procedures
  2. Myth #2. KM is an individual task
  3. Myth #3. KM prevents people from making mistakes
  4. Myth #4. Buying a robust powerful tool will fix it
  5. Myth #5. If we measure, we know…
  6. Myth #6. Someone else will take you there

16. Build It (and they won’t come) by Marc Solomon

  1. Myth #1: Increased traffic to your site(s) means that users feel compelled to share their own experiences.
  2. Myth #2: Producing content is its own reward — Users are inspired by altruism, team play, and a sense of community.
  3. Myth #3: Users want to stay in-the-loop and feel compelled to check in by using a central KM system to stay up-to-date.
  4. Myth #4: Your search engine is revving like never before. Everyone is using it. So content submissions should be edging up too, right?
  5. Myth #5: The case of network effects has sold itself. Your executives all agree: we’ve got to let our people use KM to find each other, not just documentation. How do you re-deploy an internal resource as a social network?

17. Knowledge Management Sins, Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Causes of Failure

18. Ten Other Lists of KM Myths (in slide format)