What’s more important for knowledge managers: education, or skills and experience?
In a recent RealKM Magazine article, I profiled what I consider to be the seven big new things in knowledge management (KM). Two of the big new things are Chartered Knowledge Manager status and comprehensive, accredited knowledge manager education.
In his 15 May presentation on the proposal for Chartered Knowledge Manager status, CILIP CEO Nick Poole identifies both a “qualifications route” and an “experience route” as part of the knowledge and information manager talent pipeline (Figure 1).
However, a recent article in The Straits Times and a subsequent back-of-envelope analysis prompted by it leaves me wondering if the experience route might be just as or even more important, and also realising that the qualifications route and experience route for KM integrate in only one direction. That is, knowledge managers with KM qualifications will very likely also have considerable experience, but many skilled and experienced knowledge managers have no KM qualifications. Skills are developed through experience.
In The Straits Times article, Singaporean Education Minister Ong Ye Kung contends that skills are just as important as degrees. He argues that Singaporeans should stop believing that university education is the only way to develop an individual’s potential, stating:
This could be in the form of a degree, a master’s, a specialist diploma, an accumulation of short courses attained in different phases of your life, or just something that the industry knows you are good at, without any paper qualifications. It is about having a high level of expertise, passion and mastery in a particular area.
He then goes on to recommend an integrated approach:
The traditional view is that a degree is above skills, but that is because when we think of skills in Singapore, we think of vocational skills acquired through polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education courses.
You accumulate knowledge through a degree course, but to convert the knowledge into something useful to society, you require skills. Skills are something that activate your knowledge. From that perspective, skills are above degrees.
The truth is, both are needed — it is a mesh of what you know and what you can do.
However, despite the desirability of having a mesh of both qualifications and experience, my subsequent back-of-envelope analysis shows that the majority of top knowledge managers appear to have no relevant KM qualifications at all, with their qualifications instead being in other fields. For this analysis, I looked at the four individuals from the top five in the 2013 MindTouch list of 100 top 100 KM influencers — David Gurteen, Dave Snowden, Stan Garfield, and Nancy White. All four are well-known thought leaders in the KM community and have very considerable experience, but from their LinkedIn profiles, none has relevant KM qualifications. Their qualifications are:
- David Gurteen — Bsc in Applied Physics from Coventry University.
- Dave Snowden — MBA in Financial Management from Middlesex University; BA in Philosophy from Lancaster University.
- Stan Garfield — BS in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis; Journalism and Computer Science from Northwestern University.
- Nancy White — BA in Botany from Duke University.
Broadening out to encompass the individuals in the top ten of the MindTouch list, it appears that just one of the eight individuals has qualifications relevant to KM. This is Alice MacGillivray, who is very well qualified and also has very considerable experience (her qualifications being a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University; Certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation & Public Engagement from Fielding Graduate University; MA in Human Development from Fielding Graduate University; MA in Leadership from Royal Roads University; and BGS with great distinction from Athabasca University).
While my analysis is in no way scientific, it suggests that a large proportion of top knowledge managers have reached this level through following an experience-only route, and that this is a very positive rather than a negative thing.
Given this indication, a more comprehensive analysis of the qualifications of a wide range of knowledge managers should be undertaken. Depending on the outcome, consideration will potentially need to be given to placing an equal or possibly greater emphasis on the experience-only (not just experience) route in the Chartered Knowledge Manager status.
Originally published at RealKM.