Knowledge Vs Learning Part 3 – Practical Implementation

 

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This is my third and final post on Knowledge Vs Learning. In this post I look at some of the key points around a strategic approach, the organisational factors around implementation, and some practical advice on what the inputs and outputs of an integrated system should look like.

Strategy

As with any strategic approach to learning and development, outcomes are key. A strategy for integration should focus on how the consolidation of current resources and the creation of future resources can realise business or performance outcomes. Integration is not simply a matter of good housekeeping, it should have realisable benefits in organisational efficiency and performance.

Strategic thought should be long-term in this area, because short-term thinking around knowledge capital and learning will always lead to further outlay later on. Any system or process which is not implemented without due attention to it’s sustainability will soon become messy and incoherent and need replacing.

One-system view

One challenge in implementing the right solution is a lack of clarity around the ‘prime’ ownership of an integrated system – does it sit in knowledge management or learning and development? What is the primary function? Often KM will lead as the sheer weight of data and global functionality will seem to take precedence over learning, however in my opinion these two functions should be so closely linked that the argument becomes irrelevant.

Another challenge of joining these two functions together is in the different systems that both parties would explore in the first instance. Learning experts would tend to start with Learning Management Systems (LMS), and then see KM as a resource bank, or linked system. Knowledge management experts, on the other hand, will often focus on a CMS, with learning objects forming part of the content collection.

While there are a number of hybrid platforms which combine LMS and CMS functionality, most large organisations continue to view these as separate systems. It is not usually as easy as the wholesale replacement of a system – instead it is more often a case of finding a new tool or system to work with existing infrastructure.

The key consideration is to ensure that the integration of the new system is simple on the front end, and once configured, on the back end as well. The requirements gathering should take a long-term view from the strategy, not focussing on the right now requirements above the long term possibilities of the integration. The requirements gathering should be an exercise in re-thinking the user experience and the potential to impact the business or performance outcomes.

Input

Any system which needs populating is only as useful as the data within it. The sheer amount of data cleaning in big organisations often keeps knowledge management teams busy for years. Effective tagging of content to user outcomes is key, and needs to be built into all data additions – but in as fast an intuitive a way as possible. Take lessons from web interfaces like WordPress, Evernote, Facebook, or Pocket.

An efficient learning and knowledge management system should provide a personalised bookmarking/content curation facility which not only allows self-study, but also encourages self organisation through tagging, as exemplified by FlipBoard, Pocket, Digg etc. Once the system encourages useful self-curation, learning interventions can start to be influenced or combined with these knowledge packages.

Social and collaboration are also very important, and I have often found that organisational social networks are the system which is most likely to sit outside of the CMS/LMS. It is very important that this can clearly form a part of search results and can provide an easy linking processes to L&D and KM content, as this is where the majority of conversation takes place, and therefore where information and discussion will often be most immediate and critical.

Output

It seems simple, but enquiry output is so often badly implemented or displayed. An integrated system should provide a number of outputs from various channels as the result of an enquiry. Those outputs should be linked by effective tagging and search processes, with a logical relationship to provide a complete answer. An example of the integrated outputs to a user enquiry is shown below.

User Input Reference Tools Learning
E.g. blogs posts, forums, social media, wiki posts E.g. guides, manuals, documents, walkthroughs E.g. cheat sheets, quick reference charts, methodologies E.g. e-learning, classroom courses, videos, bite-size

Summary

In this three-part series I have laid out some simple guidelines to an integrated approach to knowledge and learning. There are a multitude of complexities which I have not been able to cover, but in essence the message remains that users/learners should not have to choose between the two when seeking a solution, and that in fact, the two are so closely linked that they should be an integrated function. We all learn, we all have knowledge, and we all seek knowledge through learning, it is a simple challenge which requires a simple solution (however complex it might be to set up in the first place).

What do you think? Please comment or share your thoughts on knowledge management and learning 

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