Friday, September 28, 2007

Connecting and collecting (and being lazy)

On the Knowledge Management for Development a discussion took place about 'knowlege products' to which I posted a remark about the importance of striving for a balance between connecting and collecting. I forgot where I read about it, but since then it the concepts have stuck with me. Every now and then, I have the impression a community of practice is either leaning completely on the side of connecting, nor producing anything tangible, or is going to the extreme of collecting a lot of information without making sure people re-connect to the information collected. I'm convinced this balance is very important to get right.

I was too lazy to search for documents where I picked it up, but Stan Garfield read my question and was so kind to make it into the Knowledge Management Question of the Week. It's a good idea to read the full post with references, but in short he cites two sources. Thomas Stewart, writes:

"Connection, not collection: That's the essence of knowledge management. The
purpose of projects, therefore, is to get knowledge moving, not to freeze it; to
distribute it, not to shelve it."

David Snowden writes:
"Many years ago I formulated three rules or heuristics of Knowledge Management:

  1. Knowledge will only ever be volunteered it can not be conscripted

  2. We only know what we know when we need to know it

  3. We always know more than we can tell and we will always tell more than we can write down

Unfortunately neither of them writes about the balance between connection and collection. I would like to know more about what makes people inclined to focus on one or the other. So maybe I have to search back in my files after all...

The other aspect I've been thinking about is whether connecting and collecting is the same as participation and reification in the theory about communities of practice. I reread some of the explanations from the book 'Beyond Communities of Practice'. I think these concepts are more subtlely described. Reification can also be in terms of a new concept, and is not necessarily something tangible. I guess the connecting and collecting may be concepts that 'speak' to a wide range of people more easily than participation and reification.


Marnix said...

Hi Joitske,
I think the balance between collecting and connecting depends on your situation. I work with technicians and engineers, they are very good in collecting, writing procedures and best practices. So I focus on connecting; connecting people to documents and connecting people to people. Connecting people to documents is the easy one. The project areas and communities are mostly used as document repositories, rarely as shared discussion forums.

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

Hi Marnix, I have the impression too that communities/groups tend to lean towards one or the other. Would it be wise to stretch them to the other zone or is it a matter of going with the flow/ with their preferences?