Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Knowledge Needs Action To Create Value

The theme for the forthcoming KIN Workshop (1st December 2015) is "Knowledge in Action". Hopefully a title that will resonate with anyone who practices knowledge management, since it reminds us that knowledge without some form of action is worthless.

We consume knowledge in a variety of ways, e.g. through academic courses, reading or experiential learning. But what's the use of all of this accumulated knowledge while it remains dormant in our heads, or stored on our bookshelves? We can only realise the value of knowledge if we do something with it, and we all know that "to do" is a verb. So knowledge plus some form of action will release value.

Readers will have noticed that I've used a stock image (with permission) by John Antonios which is a variation of my equation, i.e. knowledge plus action equals power, which perhaps give more emphasis to this 'knowledge + action' dynamic, but I prefer to think of value rather than power, partly because some people may associate "power" as "self empowerment". And no doubt we can all think of examples (mostly bad) where that has happened throughout history....or in our workplace?!

Value is a different matter, because it can't be personalised or self-attributed; it's a measure of the benefit that might be gained by other people, for example from goods or a service.

One of the simplest ways of creating value from knowledge is by sharing it. We may not realise what value has been created by sharing our knowledge. We don't know what decisions we have influenced or the impact of those decisions. We can sometimes recognise the value of something we've said or done by the reactions of others, or the feedback we've received over time, but that's not always the case.

Speaking for myself, I've learnt far more from people than I've ever learnt from books, though I don't wish to dismiss books as a very useful source of knowledge. However, the power of tacit knowledge can't be underestimated, and we've never had better opportunities to tap into this knowledge through our networks - personal, private and social.  Belonging to and growing these networks is no longer an option; it's an absolute essential if we want to ensure our knowledge and skills are continually honed and adapted to the rapidly changing environment around us. Darwin called it evolution, but it's more fundamental than that, it's about surviving.

So, coming back to the point about knowledge and value. Knowledge without action has no value. We can be the brightest and most intelligent person we know, but unless we do something with this knowledge we are as useful a chocolate tea-pot (I think that might be a British idiom, but I hope the meaning is apparent).  Doing means sharing, helping, supporting, tacit-to-explicit, speaking, mentoring, teaching....I'm sure you can think of many other action verbs. Doing nothing with our knowledge is an opportunity wasted, and our net worth (value) equals nothing, zero, zilch.

I'm looking forward to the KIN Workshop in December, and listening to the knowledge being shared by our line-up of presenters and facilitators, the knowledge shared between delegates during lunch and coffee breaks and doing my bit to share. For those unable to be with us, knowledge sharing doesn't end at the workshop. It's made available on-line (explicit), the action verb in this case is - you've guessed - "published".

I can't yet put a figure on the value of all of this shared knowledge, but I know we're going to have a room full of knowledge, plenty of actions, so one thing for sure is that lots of knowledge + lots of actions = lots of value!

Hope to see you at the workshop or online.

Steve Dale
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