Thursday, May 1, 2008

Knowledge Harvests!

Knowledge Harvests - what a great term! Authors Katrina Pugh and Nancy Dixon define a “knowledge harvest as a systematic, facilitated gathering and circulation of knowledge”. I stumbled upon their article on the topic in the May edition of HBR (Harvard Business Review). It was in the Forethought section of the magazine which looks at ideas and trends on the business horizon. Let me recap my now limited understanding of a knowledge harvest and then offer some thoughts on its challenge to us as we seek to leverage E2.0.

From their short article, I believe that a knowledge harvest is a simple but purposeful and interactive approach to a postmortem analysis or debriefing. The basic idea is that the intentional review of a business occurrence or process will yield helpful information or insights for the future; hence - a knowledge harvest!

However, there is a twist. The authors say that the first step in the process is to recruit a set of “knowledge seekers” who want to learn from the harvest. They go on to characterize these people.

Because seekers are self-interested, they ask tough, exploratory questions of knowledge originators, extracting important nuances – not only about how a project was executed but also about how costs built up, how knowledge might be applied elsewhere, what worked and what didn’t, and so on.

A knowledge facilitator leads these seekers through a process of interacting with the knowledge originators to derive key information and valued insights. The knowledge facilitator then works with the seeker to package the content and distribute it around the company.
My question is whether or not our E2.0 applications are focused enough on these knowledge seekers. Do we have people who are clearly articulating what they need to know in order to do their jobs better? Do our apps help to connect these knowledge seekers with the appropriate knowledge originators within the business? I have a feeling that a lot of our Web 2.0 content is produced by knowledge facilitators who are doing screen scrapes from knowledge originators with no idea whatsoever of the needs of knowledge seekers! What do you think?

I do believe that we have the tools and technologies but I’m not sure that we have them working together to support this interesting approach of a knowledge harvest.

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