Knowledge management and technical communication a convergence of ideas and skills
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Knowledge Management and Technical Communication: A Convergence of Ideas and Skills. “We are entering (or have entered) the knowledge society in which the basic economic resource . . . is knowledge . . . and where the knowledge worker will play a central role.” –Peter Drucker, 1993.

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Knowledge Management and Technical Communication: A Convergence of Ideas and Skills

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Knowledge management and technical communication a convergence of ideas and skills

Knowledge Management and Technical Communication: A Convergence of Ideas and Skills

“We are entering (or have entered) the knowledge society in which the basic economic resource . . . is knowledge . . . and where the knowledge worker will play a central role.”

–Peter Drucker, 1993


What am i arguing

What am I arguing?

  • We are witnessing an unusual convergence.

    Knowledge management 1993-2003

    Technical communication 1993-2003

    Convergence—coming together in a common interest or focus

    Confluence—a flowing or coming together

    Concurrence—the simultaneous occurrence of events

    Coincidence—the occurrence of events that happen by the same time by accident but seem to have some connection


What am i arguing1

What am I arguing?

Knowledge management/

technical communication

1. While knowledge management has emerged as a new discipline over the past decade, we have redefined ourselves over the same decade (and are continuing to redefine ourselves).


What am i arguing2

What am I arguing?

Workplace—research—teaching

2. Now more than ever before we can contribute meaningfully to knowledge management in the workplace as well as in our research and our teaching.


What am i arguing3

What am I arguing?

Other opportunities

3. We are well positioned now to take advantage of many other opportunities in addition to knowledge management.


Overview

Overview

  • What is knowledge management and why now?

  • What’s in it for us?

  • How do recent efforts to redefineourselves help us?

  • What are some key research opportunities in knowledge management for us?

  • What’s ahead for us?


What is knowledge management and why now

What is knowledge management and why now?


What is knowledge management and why now1

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Knowledge management is a new discipline

    Ikujiro Nonaka. “The Knowledge Creating Company.” Harvard Business Review. 1991

    Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi. The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. 1995


What is knowledge management and why now2

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Knowledge management is also now an established discipline

    • Explosive growth of KM literature in academic books and journals

    • Growth of conferences, seminars devoted to KM

    • Abundance of KM articles and books in popular management outlets

    • KM as big business


What is knowledge management and why now3

What is knowledge managementand why now?

  • Roots in other disciplines:

    • Management

    • Information systems

    • Information technology

    • Business theory

    • Social psychology

    • Organizational behavior

    • Organizational learning

    • Communication


What is knowledge management and why now4

What is knowledge managementand why now?

  • Knowledge management is “the process of revealing and mapping the work activities, behaviors, and knowledge sources within an organization.”

    SusanConway and Char Sligar, Unlocking Knowledge Assets


What is knowledge management and why now5

What is knowledge managementand why now?

“knowledge management is concerned with identifying, sharing and leveraging organizational knowledge for competitive

advantage.”

Steffen Raub and Charles-Clemens Ruling


What is knowledge management and why now6

What is knowledge managementand why now?

“Knowledge management is the transfer of experience.”

Managing Partner of KPMG--Canada


What is knowledge management and why now7

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge

    • Explicit knowledge—knowledge that we know we know. Can be articulated, codified, stored, transferred through documents

    • Tacit knowledge—knowledge that we do not know we know. Difficult to articulate and generally expressible only through action


What is knowledge management and why now8

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Four modes of knowledge conversion

    Socialization—from tacit to tacit

    Externalization—from tacit to explicit

    Combination—from explicit to explicit

    Internalization—from explicit to tacit


What is knowledge management and why now9

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • “Why all this sudden interest in knowledge?”—Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge

    • New global competition

    • Trend toward leaner organizations

    • Realization that technology cannot replace human knowledge or provide its equivalent

    • Realization that knowledge is the chief asset of organizations


What is knowledge management and why now10

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • New global competition

    • Japanese companies have been successful because of their ability “to create new knowledge, disseminate it throughout the organization, and embody it in products, services, and systems.”

      Nonaka Takeuchi--The Knowledge-Creating Company


What is knowledge management and why now11

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • New global competition

    Learning how to identify, manage, and foster knowledge is vital for companies who hope to compete in today's fast-moving global economy.

    Davenport and Prusak Working Knowledge


What is knowledge management and why now12

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Trend toward leaner organizations

    “The trend toward leaner organizations has also contributed to heightened interest in knowledge, on the principle that you really understand the value of something once its gone.”

    Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge

    • Aerospace engineers example

    • Original Ford Taurus design team example


What is knowledge management and why now13

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Realization that technology cannot replace human knowledge

    “The assumption that technology can replace human knowledge or create its equivalent has proven false time and again. Developments in technology, on the other hand, are among the positive factors fueling interest in knowledge and its management.”

    Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge


What is knowledge management and why now14

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Realization that technology cannot replace human knowledge:

    The information that comes from computer systems may be considerably less valuable to managers than information that flows in from a variety of other sources.

    Davenport and Prusak Information Ecology


What is knowledge management and why now15

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Realization that technology cannot replace human knowledge

    “Technology is the enabler of all forms of knowledge management. . . . It allows the knowledge-based company to collect, codify, publish, share, and innovate through the reuse of knowledge. But technology alone cannot manage knowledge for a company.”

    Conway and Sligar, Unlocking Knowledge Assets


What is knowledge management and why now16

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Realization that knowledge is the chief asset of organizations

    “The metaphysics of global power has changed. Markets are now more valuable than territory, information more powerful than military hardware.”

    Lance Morrow, Time, Jan 1,1990


What is knowledge management and why now17

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Knowledge management in practice:

    1996—teams of leading heart surgeons from five New England medical centers observed one another’s operating-room practices

    Result—a 24 percent drop in their overall mortality rate for coronary bypass surgery, or 74 fewer deaths than predicted


What is knowledge management and why now18

What is knowledge management and why now?

  • Knowledge management in practice

    • 2002—Bermuda-based law firm Appleby, Spurling & Kempe needed a better way to find, manage, and share information

    • Now has one-stop access to more than 1.5 million content elements including Microsoft Office documents and presentations, Portable Document Format files (PDFs), research articles, intranet and Internet links, records, and people in the firm’s specialized legal databases


What s in it for us

What’s in it for us?


What s in it for us1

What’s in it for us?

“On reflection, there is actually considerable logic behind the idea that technical writers would be able to understand certain forms of knowledge—particularly technical knowledge—and contribute to an electronic repository.”

Davenport and Prusak Working Knowledge


What s in it for us2

What’s in it for us?

  • On the value of KM for technical communicators

    • Judy Glick-Smith (1998, 2001)

    • David Leonard (1999)

    • Cory Wick (2000)

    • J.D. Applen (2002)

    • Michael Hughes (2002)


What s in it for us3

What’s in it for us?

  • Glick-Smith: introduces KM concepts and how KM should be implemented

  • Leonard: “our discipline is inextricably intertwined with the knowledgemanagementrevolution.”

  • Wick: technical communicators are contenders for leadership roles in knowledge management


What s in it for us4

What’s in it for us?

  • Applen: “technical communicators . . . are at the center of an organization’s knowledge”

  • Hughes: technical communicators add value “by creating organization (internal) knowledge”


What s in it for us5

What’s in it for us?

  • Corey Wick’s article “Knowledge Management and Leadership Opportunities for Technical Communicators.”


What s in it for us6

What’s in it for us?

  • Wick argues that Technical Communicators have three core competencies:

    They have a thorough understanding of the complexities of knowledge, language, and communication.

    They are exceptionally talented in working across functions, departments, and all disciplines.

    Most, importantly, they are expert communicators.


What s in it for us7

What’s in it for us?

  • Some positives

    • Recognition—recognition for “the value of capturing, synthesizing, distributing, and reusing knowledge on a broad scale, a value on which the field of technical communication was built” (Wick 521).

    • Opportunities—more opportunities for technical communicators to employ their talents and competencies in new areas

    • Perceptions—KM now perceived as vital driver of business


What s in it for us8

What’s in it for us?

  • Some negatives

    • Technical communicators are among the last to be identified as potential contributors

    • Technical communicators are filling supporting roles, not leading ones

    • Technical communication is “in danger of perpetuating its history of under empowerment and obscurity”


What s in it for us9

What’s in it for us?

  • A call for a paradigm shift:

    “If knowledge management represents a paradigm shift in the way business is perceived and conducted, then technical communicators must also change paradigms to meet the needs of an evolving business climate. We must move beyond demanding adequate recognition and compensation for our contributions.”

    Corey Wick


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us1

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • The past—the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s

    • Technical writing is different

    • Technical communication has its roots in rhetoric

    • Technical writing has humanistic value

    • Technical communication has an image problem


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us2

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • The past decade

    • Janice Redish and Judith Ramey (1995)

    • Ann Rockley (2001)

    • William Hart-Davidson (2001)

    • Saul Carliner (2001)

    • Muriel Zimmerman (2001)

    • Marjorie Davis (2001)

    • Michael Hughes (2002)


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us3

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • Redish and Ramey—we add value in measurable ways

  • Redish—we need to be involved in the planning of single-sourcing systems

  • Rockley—we may want to become information technologists

  • Hart-Davidson—we have a central role to play in information technology systems


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us4

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • Carliner—we are information designers

  • Zimmerman—we will play different roles in user support

  • Davis—we must move from craftsperson to professional

  • Hughes—we must see ourselves as knowledge creators


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us5

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • Michael Hughes’ article “Moving From Information Transfer to Knowledge Creation: A New Value Proposition for Technical Communicators”

    Hughes is president and founder of Working Knowledge, Inc.


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us6

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

  • Hughes argues that we must move beyond seeing ourselves as information packagers to seeing ourselves as knowledge creators.

  • We make three important contributions as knowledge creators.


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us7

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

1.Technical communicators are knowledge specialists who help SMEs make explicit what has become tacit:

Probing interviews

Critical reverse engineering


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us8

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

2. Technical communicators help design teams arrive at consensus (group knowledge) about what the product is or does:

Usability tests

Document review process


How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us9

How do recent efforts to redefine ourselves help us?

3. Technical communicators create knowledge assets:

Creators of knowledge think beyond the concept of documentation and think in terms of knowledge management systems.

The more technical communicators do to create systems that make the knowledge within the documentation searchable or otherwise accessible, the more value they add.


What are some key research opportunities in km for us

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us1

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Some potential research areas:

    • Metaphors and analogies

    • Vocabularies

    • Taxonomies

    • Narratives

    • Environments

    • Pedagogies


What are some key research opportunities in km for us2

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Metaphors and analogies

    • 1978 example of Honda City, a different kind of automobile.

    • “Let’s gamble”

    • “Automobile Evolution”—If the automobile were an organism, how should it evolve?

    • “man-maximum, machine-minimum”

    • Image of a sphere

    • “Tall Boy”

      Nonaka and Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company


What are some key research opportunities in km for us3

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Metaphors and analogies

    “Externalization is . . . often driven by metaphor and/or analogy. Using an attractive metaphor and/or analogy is highly effective in fostering direct commitment to the creative process.”

    –Nonaka and Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company


What are some key research opportunities in km for us4

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Metaphors and analogies

    • Sample research questions:

      • What are the best success stories of metaphors and analogies leading to corporate innovation?

      • Why are metaphors and analogies so effective for motivating groups to create and produce?

      • What kinds of metaphors and analogies work best and why?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us5

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Vocabularies

    A recent conference at MIT for scientists and Buddhist monks

    “Before I got into this, I thought we should be open-minded, but I didn’t think it was likely we would be able to have a useful exchange.” Now “I feel like there is a common language, a common engagement of ideas. We’ve only scratched the surface.”

    Nancy Kanwisher, MIT psychologist


What are some key research opportunities in km for us6

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Vocabularies:

    “Research shows time and again that a shared language is essential to productive knowledge transfer.” Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge

    Example: BP employs consultants to translate observations made by “roughnecks” on North Sea oil rigs into language and concepts that executives in London can better understand.


What are some key research opportunities in km for us7

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Vocabularies:

    “. . . multiple and sometimes contradictory meanings for fundamental terms exist in many organizations and create barriers to consolidating information and knowledge.”

    Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge

    Example: Meanings of “customer,” “product,” and “material” at Monsanto


What are some key research opportunities in km for us8

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Vocabularies

    • Sample research questions:

      • Why is it important to establish a common language to foster knowledge creation?

      • How does a common language help create trust and knowledge?

      • What are the best ways for quickly establishing a common language within an organization and between organizations?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us9

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Taxonomies (any classified collections of elements)

    “As content grows in the electronic world, it is apparent that simply turning a search engine loose on a collection of information will not give the hoped for improvements in productivity and profits promised by e-business. Taxonomies are the missing link.”

    Mike Crandall, former Knowledge Architect Manager, Microsoft Corporation


What are some key research opportunities in km for us10

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Taxonomies

    • Sample research questions

      • How do you match the taxonomy to knowledge workers’ information seeking behavior?

      • If a search fails (appropriate content is not available), how do you structure a taxonomy to give feedback to taxonomy administrators?

      • How can a KM system not only inform the knowledge worker of the existence of content but also begin to inform of the lack of content?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us11

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Narratives

    • Videos sent to branch offices that tell the story of an important business event, such as how a key sale was made

    • Messages in the form of stories sent by a securities firm to its brokerage agents providing info about a sale, an upcoming event, or customer feedback

    • Stories of desirable business behavior circulated electronically under the banner “Excellence in Action” by a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard

      Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge


What are some key research opportunities in km for us12

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Narratives

    “research shows that knowledge is communicated most effectively through a convincing narrative that is delivered with formal elegance and passion.”

    Davenport and Prusak, Working Knowledge


What are some key research opportunities in km for us13

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Narratives

    • Sample research questions:

      • Why are narratives one of the best ways for capturing tacit knowledge?

      • What are the best examples of narratives for capturing tacit knowledge?

      • What are the best ways for relaying these narratives—video, multimedia, retreats?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us14

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Environments (technical communicators in the workplace):

    “We demonstrate why we work with teams to capture their knowledge in seed documents, and then discuss how seed documents lead to document prototypes and drafts.”

    Stephen Bernhardt and George A. McCulley


What are some key research opportunities in km for us15

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Environments:

    Three major questions concerning six student interns:

    1. What are some of the specific means by which these newcomers gained access to knowledge in this workplace?

    2. What role did disciplinary or organizational language practices play in the students’ learning?

    3. Did the newcomers contribute to the generation of new knowledge?

    Deborah Winsor


What are some key research opportunities in km for us16

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Environments

    • Sample research questions:

      • What roles are technical communicators currently playing in the knowledge management boom?

      • Are these roles successful or significant? Why or why not?

      • If not, what will it take to involve technical communicators in KM in major ways?


What are some key research opportunities in km for us17

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Pedagogies:

    “Creators of knowledge must also be skilled facilitators and shrewd interviewers (similar to anthropologists and sociologists). Degree programs in technical communication should include courses to develop these skills.

    Michael Hughes


What are some key research opportunities in km for us18

What are some key research opportunities in KM for us?

  • Pedagogies

    • Sample research questions:

      • How can we include more knowledge management theory into our courses?

      • How can we best put together multidisciplinary courses to teach knowledge management?

      • How can we put more emphasis on knowledge management tools without sacrificing emphasis on theory?


What s ahead for us

What’s ahead for us?


What s ahead for us1

What’s ahead for us?

  • “It does seem safe to predict that in five years, there will still be human professionals doing the work presently done by technical communicators, though the skills required for technical communicators in the next computer revolution will change at least as much in the next five years as they have in the past five years.”

    Muriel Zimmerman, 2001


What s ahead for us2

What’s ahead for us?

  • “We define an information ecology to be a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular environment. In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology.”

    Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day, Information Ecologies: Using Technology With Heart


What s ahead for us3

What’s ahead for us?

  • In 2006 we will be known by even more job titles but we will also be:

    • knowledge creators

    • information designers

    • information ecologists


In closing

In Closing . . .


In closing1

In Closing . . .

Knowledge Management 1993-2003

Technical Communication 1993-2003

A convergence (confluence, concurrence, coincidence) of some kind has occurred (is occurring).

  • Shared interests and skills

  • Shared values

  • Shared present and future


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