What does Bing AI say about Knowledge Management? What would Todd add?
Recently, I received a call from a friend and business colleague asking if I could help him. He explained he was looking at all the hardcopy notes and reports on his desk, and thinking about all the electronic information he has, and wondered if there was such a thing as a "Knowledge Management Review" service to help make things easier in his consulting practice.
Before I can discuss my friend’s situation, I first need to explain what Knowledge Management (KM) is.
Knowledge Management – What Is It?
As luck would have it, when I received my friend’s call, I was already making my own notes on research compiled by my Business Development Associate for this month’s e-newsletter on Knowledge Management. While compiling and organizing my notes, Windows served up a timely – and welcome – suggestion, inviting me to try the new AI-enabled chat mode of the Microsoft search engine, Bing. I clicked through and asked Bing to:
Write a 500-word summary on the current state of knowledge management.
A few seconds later, here's what Bing returned:
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of identifying, organizing, storing and sharing knowledge within an organization. Knowledge is an intangible asset that consists of skills and information that people possess. There are two main types of knowledge: explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is easy to articulate and transfer, while tacit knowledge is difficult to codify and teach. Knowledge management aims to harness the collective knowledge of the organization and use it to achieve organizational objectives.
Some of the benefits of knowledge management include:
- Increased operational efficiency and productivity
- Faster decision-making and problem-solving
- Improved innovation and creativity
- Enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Reduced costs and risks
- Higher employee engagement and retention
Some of the challenges of knowledge management include:
- Capturing and documenting tacit knowledge
- Creating a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration
- Managing the quality and relevance of knowledge
- Integrating knowledge across different sources and platforms
- Measuring the impact and value of knowledge
To implement knowledge management effectively, organizations need to follow a systematic cycle that involves:
- Creating or acquiring new knowledge from internal or external sources
- Storing or organizing knowledge in a centralized and accessible repository
- Using or applying knowledge to support decision-making and action
- Sharing or disseminating knowledge with other members of the organization
- Evaluating or updating knowledge to ensure its accuracy and usefulness
To support this cycle, organizations need to use various tools and technologies, such as:
- Knowledge bases or databases that store structured and unstructured data
- Knowledge portals or websites that provide access to relevant information and resources
- Knowledge maps or visual representations that show the location and flow of knowledge
- Knowledge networks or communities that facilitate communication and collaboration among knowledge workers
- Knowledge analytics or methods that measure and analyze the performance and impact of knowledge
Knowledge management is a dynamic and evolving field that requires constant adaptation and improvement. Organizations that embrace knowledge management can gain a competitive advantage in the market and achieve their goals more effectively.
That's actually a solid summary of KM. Thank you, Bing, you saved me a lot of time!
Knowledge Management – Some Finer Points
While Bing’s AI-generated summary was pretty good, I believe a few concepts deserve a better explanation.
Explicit, Implicit, and Tacit Knowledge – Most of the sources I’ve read actually describe three different types of knowledge.
- Explicit Knowledge – This is the easiest to share and most accessible because it's typically stored and communicated in formats such as a client relationship management (CRM) system, company data sheets, reports, and white papers. For example, Todd Herman Associates (THA) has "Job Aids" detailing how specific tasks are to be carried out for each job function within the company.
- Implicit Knowledge – This knowledge is the tips and tricks gleaned from co-workers to supplement your explicit knowledge base. For instance, one very important acronym inside THA is MIN, meaning “Most Important Now.” The MIN technique is used to prioritize daily work. Our associates learn to use the "MIN" technique from both the Job Aid (explicit knowledge) and from the experience of other associates (implicit knowledge).
- Tacit Knowledge – Such knowledge is a culmination of contextual real-world experiences your employees bring to the table. It's also the hardest to document and transfer, taking frequent interactions and extensive communication to learn. Even though THA has an extensive on-boarding process, refined from over 30 years of welcoming new employees, THA's culture can never be completely documented in Job Aids nor distilled into a few tips and tricks. Thus, new employees learn “The THA Way” – our specific instance of "This Is How We Do Things Here" – from trial and error.
Structured and Unstructured Data – There is a significant difference between these two basic types of data.
- Structured Data – This data is highly organized, having the same types of data in the same place across all instances of the data. This data can be put in “rows and columns” as in a spreadsheet, where all items in a particular column contain the same type of information – say, a person’s name in the first column and that person’s phone number in the second column – and all rows contain the exact same types of information. Examples of structured data are a data table in a spreadsheet, the contents of a database, and the transactions in an accounting system.
- Unstructured Data – This data is not consistently organized in a predefined manner and cannot be put into “rows and columns.” Examples of unstructured data include emails, images, videos, audio files, PDF files, and social media posts – essentially, this is everything other than structured data.
My Friend's Story
A little background on my friend who asked about a Knowledge Management Review service – he is a semi-retired solo practitioner with no staff, and works with multiple clients on Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) projects. He’s also decidedly “old school” as you’ll see from our following conversation about his practice.
I asked him to describe his piles of information, and he rattled off numerous items, including:
- His own email account, as well as 3 email accounts clients have created for him.
- OneDrive accounts set up for him by 3 clients.
- SharePoint accounts set up for him by 3 clients.
- Various files on two MacBook Airs, an iPad, his iPhone, and some other devices.
- Piles of paper!! Many notepads completely filled with handwritten notes – among these are ideas he’d like to store and possibly revisit, plus various To Do items that may or may not have been done.
During our talk, I also learned:
- His email client is Microsoft Outlook (even though he’s on the Apple platform, he uses the Microsoft Office products)
- He is NOT using iCloud to sync info among his various devices!
- He has an older Hewlett-Packard printer-scanner – however, it has a SINGLE side scanner, so he has been copying alternate pages of 2-sided documents and merging them with the original pages to scan the document in one pass.
We also discussed:
- Devices to convert handwriting into typed text – he mentioned Remarkable, while I shared my experience with RocketBook (I’d give it a grade of “D” for recognizing my printing).
- Scanning documents and using text recognition to convert to readable – and searchable – text.
Once all this information was digitized and stored, he wanted to know how he would be able to quickly and reliably find what he needed when he needed it. In his case, most of his information would either be contained in files stored on his laptop, or inside emails in Outlook.
He was also interested in defining a process to not only get things in order, but also to specify how new incoming information, in its wide variety of formats, should be handled.
Finally, there’s the issue of cost. He will need to select and buy, whether a one-time purchase or an ongoing subscription, the following items:
- Services of someone to develop the overall information and technology plan, including the initial and ongoing information-handling processes he desires, as well as the “shopping list” of all the items required to make the magic happen.
- A new higher-speed duplex printer-scanner or a dedicated scanner.
- Software to convert scans of both printed materials and handwritten items to searchable text.
- Search software that searches as many different file formats as needed, located in as many different places as possible.
- Services of someone to help setup, configure, and test the new hardware and software, and to enable iCloud to sync folders and files across as many devices as possible.
- Services of someone to transcribe any handwritten notes that cannot be recognized by software.
Managing Knowledge is Harder Than It Seems
As my friend likely took away from our phone call, there's a big difference between the starting point of a Knowledge Management Review, the creative and strategic thought put into a Knowledge Management Plan, and the effort and investment required to convert the plan into a fully-developed Knowledge Management System.
Fortunately, I was able to help my friend begin to frame and understand his issues and give him some specific pointers, as well as providing the name of a person who could help with his Apple environment.
As you might guess, my own experience with knowledge management is quite different from that of my friend’s, so join me next month as I share my own knowledge management journey and how we at THA built our knowledge management system.
Todd L. Herman