This weeks readings reminded me of the urban legend surrounding the recipe of Coca-Cola. Apparently the recipe is so secret that only two people in the entire world know it in its entirety. As a result of this they are never allowed to travel on the same plane just in case the plane were to go down and losing the recipe forever.
This seems like some pretty bad knowledge management. What if both planes went down? Or what if Pepsi decided that they didn’t want anymore competition so they were going to “take them out” and not for dinner and a movie?
Knowledge management seems to have to straddle a very fine line. On one hand the more people who understand the workings of an organisation the smoother the organisation can be run. On the other hand the more that people know the more likely it is that this information can be leaked to competitors.
I do not feel that this too much of an issue within library management. After all, one of the fundemental purposes of the library is to dissimate knowledge throughout its community, be that in a public, academic, or business setting. To all intents and purposes that means that knowledge management is a cornerstone of librarianship. With that in mind it makes sense that KM would be important in the day to day running of any library facility.
So what is the most important type of knowledge that needs to be managed within an organisation? In my opinion, tacit knowledge is vital. Moreover, it’s interesting. Everyone likes picking up on the tricks and shortcuts involved in performing a task. It gives us a sense of belonging. I worked for a big multi-national corporation. To be perfectly honest we didn’t give a damn about the company. We were on the very bottom rung of the corporate ladder and were all merely there to collect our paycheck at the end of the week. We worked in the missing packages department of customers services. That meant that we spent 12 hours a day getting shouted at by frustrated customers who we could not help. We were in Ireland, our customers were in France. All we could do was tell them to wait. This is where the tacit knowledge kicked in. We all learned very quickly that there are certain words that you never use, problem, delay, mistake etc. as this would serve to infuriate the customer. Instead you spun a lovely story using only positive words. The outcome was the same. The customer would still have to stay home and wait for their package to arrive, yet they would be happy to do so and would use the company again.
We were never taught this in training. This was something that we learned on the job and then passed on to the new recruits. In doing so we formed a bond with each other, if not necessarily the company. This still worked in the comapny’s favour. They had an educated work force and happy customers.
The importance of tacit knowledge can not be underestimated. We live in a world where graduates are forced to spend increasing amount of times in internship programmes before they are able to find the holy grail, a paying job. These are young adults who have spent a minimum of three years studying an area in great detail, yet they are seen to be unhirable. This is because they have no on the job experience. i.e. tacit knowledge. The internship enables them to pick up on these elements of knowledge which are lacking in their formal education and thus prepares them for the workforce. This is opposed to the other forms of knowledge which can be gained by studying the subject area or indeed the company and their ethos.
KM is clearly important as it not only facilitates the work done within any given company it also helps serve as a bond between employees regardless of their loyalty to the company itself. If the employees have a strong bond they are likely to develop some form of loyalty to the company in the long run. This undoubtedly encourages innovation as even the laziest employee, in fact most likely the laziest employee, is likely to try and come up with procedures to minimise the levels of work that they need to do in order to get a job done and once they have figured this out they are likely to spread the word amongst their friends thus improving efficiency within the work force.