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November 2002    Feature
a free monthly briefing on the knowledge agenda
No. 67

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Managing editor:
David J. Skyrme


KM Europe 2002:
Excellence With Elegance

David J. Skyrme

Alexandra Palace, the place where the first public television transmission were broadcast in England in 1936, was the hub for three days of knowledge transmissions from practitioners, world KM luminaries, and KM solution suppliers. In the elegant surroundings of the Palm Court, stand after stand of PCs touted software and content that was "third generation", "bottom up", "integrated", "end-to-end", "out-of-the-box" and would "turn knowledge accidents into knowledge management". Other stands were promoting consulting services, courses, publications and professional associations. In parallel, there were vendor presentations (some quite good in that they described approaches and case studies rather than being blatant product promotions) and keynote presentations, including two from ENTOVATION's two Karl's - Karl Wiig and Karl Erik Sveiby.

For those that have been around KM for a while, it really is getting difficult to find anything significantly new and to get enthused about. The challenge of such an occasion is how to spend your time. It was not surprising that the cafe, bar and the "knowledge learning zone", all of which offered opportunities for visitors to knowledge network among themselves were always buzzing with conversation. Thus, my good intentions to attend several sessions went out of the window (or palace doors) as soon as I met colleagues from all parts of the world, including North America, Europe and the Far East. In fact, after the main sessions on the second day a group of ENTOVATION 100 colleagues convened an impromptu meeting to discuss plans for a future ENTOVATION event.

KM Made in Europe

As at KM Europe 2001 in the Hague (see I3 UPDATE/ENTOVATION International News No. 56) the European Commission were very evident both in the form of the European Commission Village (with stands from several advanced research projects supported in part by EU funding), and as hosts for two EKMF (European Knowledge Management Forum) sessions, one covering the work of the SIGs (Special Interest Groups), and the other to plan for setting up a network of excellence for the knowledge-based economy.

What was evident is that the EKMF is no longer just a European community but a world-wide one. Paul Hearn of the Commission reported that EKMF's main portal - KnowledgeBoard now had registered members from 78 countries. KnowledgeBoard had also gained recognition from Harvard Business Review as "the best on the Web" KM portal. The international perspective was brought home by one of the speakers at the SIG session, Praba Nair, Director of the Institute for Insights and Innovation of Singapore's National Computer Systems. He is organizing an Asia-Pacific special interest KM group that would not only share KM experience within its region, but seek opportunities for collaboration between Asian KM practitioners and those in Europe. While noting that KM is not as mature in Asia "it is still seen as primarily an IT-related discipline", he commented how its uptake was growing steadily in operational areas and in the public sector.

Knowledge Specialization

The maturing of knowledge management means that it is now easier to form a critical mass of academics and practitioners around a wide range of KM-related topics. Some of the interests represented were:

  • Framework and Standards SIG - Marc Pudlatz reported that CEN (the focus for European standards) is planning a "European Guide of Good Practice" building on the work of the BSI and those involved in the SIG (see the article on standards in I3 UPDATE/ENTOVATION International News No. 65). It will address five main areas - terminology, frameworks, measurement and metrics, implementation in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and organizational culture.
  • The Learning Society - a special interest group run by students for students, but also linking them to practitioners. With so many dissertations and research projects now taking place in the field of KM, this SIG provides a unique forum for peer support for KM students across the world.
  • Communities of Practice - this SIG's focus is on the challenge of "how to make communities fly". It will collate knowledge on successes and failures, critical success factors, benchmarking, CoP metrics, best practices, description of tools and bibliography. In fact, the ambition of collating knowledge was a key planned output of many of the SIGs, especially those involved with implementation and the public sector.
  • Strategy and Vision - this SIG aims to explore the 'cutting edge' of KM. What are the new environmental drivers? What are the new directions, new concepts, new solutions etc.? It argues that few have a holistic understanding of the transformation process, and that there is no clear integrated model of organizational knowledge work. It plans to develop a 'business roadmap'.

A new and interesting SIG is that for critical incident knowledge. Increasingly, organizations, individuals and nations are confronted with "critical incidents" (natural disasters, terrorist attacks etc.). How do they get instant access to highly relevant knowledge that will help them make the right decisions in these difficult situations? Other SIGs include those for public sector, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), knowledge businesses, KM and trust, KM and EI (emotional intelligence) and space (KM's last frontier?).

The collaborative knowledge development and articulation that takes places across organizations and nationalities in these SIGs, is evidence of the vibrancy of knowledge networking. Although the work of each SIG progresses daily through virtual communications, it is an event like KM 20002 Europe that gives such work renewed vigour and boost. For those involved in knowledge management, sharing knowledge at KM Europe 2002 in the surroundings of Alexandra Palace truly engendered excellence with elegance.

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