What jobs are good training grounds for landing a knowledge manager or CKO position?

Originally answered Feb 8, 2011

Varied backgrounds include information technology, human resources, library science, academia, journalism, social networking, project management, and line management. Having experience in more than one of these, if not all, is valuable for those in the field of knowledge management.

Knowledge managers are needed to raise awareness, align knowledge actions with business priorities, promote a knowledge-sharing culture, engage senior leadership, manage the infrastructure, and support all knowledge workers. Good knowledge managers are part connector, part maven, and part salesman, to use Malcolm Gladwell’s terms from “The Tipping Point.”

Knowledge managers know how to use KM tools, how to ask others for help, who should be connected to whom, who would benefit from a piece of information, and how to persuade others to use information effectively. One role of a knowledge manager is subscribing to many information sources, belonging to many communities, and reading many publications, always looking out for what may be useful to others in the organization.

All good managers should do these things, but they may not how to best do so. A KM program can support managers in all of these activities. Good knowledge managers regularly inform their management colleagues about an article, book, presentation, or con call which was relevant to their areas of responsibility. These colleagues can subscribe to the same sources and join the same communities, but if not, they will appreciate being selectively alerted when content applies to them.

All knowledge workers in the organization should view sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning to be part of their jobs. But as Malcolm Gladwell wrote, not everyone is a connector, maven, or salesman. So those who play these roles, and especially, those who combine more than one of these roles, can function as power knowledge workers, facilitating knowledge flow throughout the organization.

Good knowledge managers have worked in many different roles so that they have experienced first-hand the needs of employees. They know about the organization, including who does what, where to find information, and the ways things get done. Within the organization, they are active in communities, subscribe to newsletters, attend seminars and conference calls, and visit web sites. Outside, they attend seminars and conferences, read books, subscribe to periodicals, follow blogs and tweets, visit web sites, and participate in online communities.

Knowledge managers look for knowledge-related needs that are not currently met, and try to develop ways to meet these needs using people, process, or technology. They like to help others who are looking for information, trying to figure out how to use tools, or seeking others. They introduce people to one another, invite them to join communities, and pass along items of interest which they encounter.

Here is the profile of a good knowledge manager.

Experience

  1. Management: supervised people, led work teams, managed a business or functional unit
  2. Project management: successfully managed projects to meet deadlines, provide deliverables, and adhere to budgets
  3. Communications: published documents, gave presentations, and managed communications programs
  4. Knowledge management tools: for many of these, performed evaluations, led implementation projects, and used them regularly
  5. Reputation: has earned the respect of people both inside and outside of the organization based on accomplishments, networking, and communications

Skills

  1. Leadership: able to influence others, lead work teams, and manage projects
  2. Communications: excellent at writing, speaking, presenting, and using a variety of communications vehicles
  3. Process: able to quickly learn and master a wide variety of processes
  4. Knowledge management tools: expert at using many of these
  5. Analysis: able to seek input, analyze information, consider alternatives, and make good decisions