It is one year since I lasted posted a comment on Plain Speaking.
There are many reasons as to why content was suspended during this time. Suffice to say, the time has come for this blog to come to a close.
Thank you to the many people who have helped me over the years, especially those people whom I met as a result of the Plain Speaking blog. Blogging enabled me to think through a number of issues and helped record some of the events I have attended over the years. In that regard, blogging was both a personal and social activity on issues in communication, media and knowledge management.
I anticipate creating another blog in the near future on communication, media and knowledge management under a different name and within more defined parameters. Once the new blog is created, a notification will then be made on Plain Speaking. As such this is the penultimate post, but an end nevertheless.
The latest issue of Information Research has a great article by Chris Kimble, entitled Knowledge management, codification and tacit knowledge.
The paper takes an interesting approach; looking at knowledge from the perspective of economists. The idea is to provide a “view of knowledge that allows it to be considered as a stock that is accumulated through interaction with an information flux”.
Kimble looks at two key interpretations of tacit knowledge – from Polanyi and Nonaka. This discussion is very useful. Kimble summarises the key points from both theories in relation to knowledge management and shows the distinction between the two. Purists have argued that Polanyi’s view of tacit knowledge means that tacit knowledge can never become explicit. Nonaka takes a more practical approach, claiming tacit knowledge can be made explicit under some circumstances or approximations. Nonaka was interested specifically in “knowledge conversion”.
Kimble then discusses an interesting approach to the tacit/explicit knowledge issue – a topography of knowledge transaction activities. The typography comes from the following cited work: Cowan, R., David, P.A. & Foray, D. (2000). The explicit economics of knowledge codification and tacitness. Industrial and Corporate Change, 9(2), 211-253.
What is interesting here is that the focus is on where the knowledge transactions take place rather than the form in which the knowledge is contained. Kimble goes on to say: “While Cowan et al. may have little to say about the benefits of codification, their topography does provide a structure to examine its costs. Perhaps the most obvious cost associated with codification is that of creating the codebook.”
Kimble concludes his paper looking at the duality of information and what it means: “By focusing exclusively on codified knowledge, the advocates of codification may lose sight of the intimate linkages between tacit and explicit knowledge.”
Kimble’s paper is well worth a read for stimulating thought about tacit and explicit knowledge; a significant point of discussion in knowledge management over many, many years.
Next week I am off to Tonga for a couple of days. I have been asked to undertake a quick (well, two days is pretty quick!) evaluation of the education management information system (EMIS) used by the Tonga Department of Education.
This project is part of a series of EMIS evaluations in the Pacific in the next couple of months. I am off to Papua New Guinea at the end of the month.
For part of the project I will be working with Oscar, the consultant I worked with in Kiribati last year. It will be great to work with him again and on a very similar project.
I quite enjoy these projects that get me out into the real world on projects that can make a real difference to policy development and education. I also find these projects professionally rewarding in being able to use a part of my skill set that sees only limited use in my AusAID library and knowledge services role.
I find the day after a conference has finished is a good time to let the knowledge gleaned from the previous days flow through the brain without reference to notes. I like this type of unstructured post-conference flow because it allows key themes to emerge by themselves in my thinking.
A key theme for me (and I mean a theme that I have been thinking about in response to the combination of information and experiences from the conference) is that libraries and organisations need to go where to the clients are in a way that is meaningful to them.
Amy Sample Ward started this thought in me when she emphasised working with the community, not for the community. Working with a community or a client group means working with them in consideration of what they want and how they want it. How they want their information may be different to how the organisation believes it should deliver the information.
Michael Clarke (no, not the Australian cricketer) from Silverchair (no, not the Australian band) presented on “the great unboxing”. Libraries had to start thinking more about content than just the format (the container the information was in). The focus on content is something I have emphasised in my workplace as well. Other presentations, particularly around library catalogue search and the library catalogue GUI, also emphasised the need to provide the traditional library service in a way that was effective, but also both familiar to users and appealing to users. In some cases being like Google was important because Google is a familiar and well-used information search option. If we want users to use the catalogue, then we must make the catalogue as appealing to use as Google.
My thinking around this is that whilst as librarians we have a range of library tools and information technologies at our disposal, they don’t really mean much unless we meet the needs of our clients in the way the clients want their needs met. And information needs are becoming more focused on content from a multitude of sources and networks than ever before – and libraries and organisations need to be there in all those places. In marketing speak, you go to where your customers are and meet with them in a way the customers have determined. So, if your customers are on Facebook, then that’s one place you need to go. Interestingly, at the Web 3.0 conference I attended last year in Sydney, the same sentiment was expressed: using social media is fine but it only really means something if it means something to your audience. The Web 3.0 conference is on again in June.
The upshot (take-home?) of this is that if libraries or organisations want to push a system that their clients won’t use, but go ahead with it anyway because the library or organisation sees some other “benefit”, then we are wasting time and resources because the clients aren’t going there. We need to consider the customer experience!
And if your clients aren’t going there, then it doesn’t matter what the system can do compared to something else, it just isn’t going to work!