Thursday, June 15, 2006

Technology: supporting decision-making

Many articles (like this one by Wenger have written about the waves in knowledge management, the first focussing on technology, the second on people, the third on strategic capabilities). Nancy Dixon in Does your organisation have an asking problem? also talks about the challenges of software-based knowledge systems, and how to combine it with access to tacit knowledge in the heads of colleagues.

While planning our holiday in China (with a friend who lives in Beijing) I experienced a nice example of how technology (information from the internet) and people (talking to friends) interact for decision-making. Though we originally planned to visit Tibet from Liyang in southern China, a friend (met by coincidence in the train) alerted me to altitude sickness. I then started discussing it with my friend in Beijing and starting reading lots of things on the internet about altitude sickness (facts, like the name of a medicine, etc and personal accounts). Still it was hard to make a decision because the information is hard to evaluate and translate into a good decision (and information is sometimes contradictory). Till we talked to friends who have lived in Nepal. They have never been to Tibet, but were able to tell many stories about altitude sickness, what matters (for instance sleeping at the same altitude is very different from when you go up and sleep at a lower altitude). Knowing the friends, their experiences, their seriousness, etc. made it much easier to make a decision. So we are not going to Tibet and I'm very happy with our (well thought-through) decision!

1 comment:

hoong said...

Hello Joitske,

Two of my friends will be travelling to Bhutan. One from Holland the other from the Phillippines. To visit another friend who is a Bhutanese. Initially I am supposed to join them but I chickened out due partially of the remoteness of the location and my health. And then also the altitudes which also would affect my health.

We often forget that internet and other telecommunications media are tools. They 'present' information. While decision making is still in our own hands.

Many years ago during my initial introduction to KM, and the nature of the company I used to work for, I came to realize that KM if not manage properly, eventually 'real knowledge' would be in the hands of a few selected people. While the rest of us just follow instructions and at the mercy of the hands of those who controlled 'real knowledge'. My main objection then, and it is still now, we have to promote 'decision making skills' and not just center on creating content. Contents show us what is available, but how to use contents is crucial.

Since you are going to China, I will use a Chinese saying: when there are 3 persons together, there would be a teacher among them on certain topic. ??? early Chinese CoP?? :) . In other words, when there is a group of people, there will be talking, there will be discussions, there will be wisdom created. And we will learn from each other.