Why archiving discussion threads and communication applies to KM

Making job-relevant tacit and implicit knowledge easily accessible and usable is job number one of KM. Much of the needed information employees need is not documented formally. It’s either inside the heads of employees but could possibly floating out there in the conversations and project work (documents) that aren’t archived or made public. In otherwords, knowledge can take a intangible or tacit form.

One of KM’s goals is to make Implicit (intangible knowledge) Tacit (or Tangible).


I referenced the image above in an earlier post about leveraging “Tribal Knowledge.” I noted that in creating a well-rounded KM system, in addition to documenting knowledge it’s also important to foster the development of support and expertise networks amongst members of an organization. I would posit that it’s just as important to capture discussions and threads around topics that are of particular importance to an organization.

E-mail communications and certain e-mail conversation threads often contain some of that relevant knowledge. But you might ask the question: Is it important to keep all group conversations and e-mail? Won’t we be just taking up a lot of space and making a lot of clutter when we start posting all of our discussions in a wiki or a project collaboration platform like Sharepoint?

But maybe the whole point is not the clutter (because size-wise discussion threads don’t take up that much space on a server), but instead the fact that you can search for any dicussion relating to a topic or item. And the reality is “good search capability” is not unattainable today…. except for if you’re using a Microsoft product.

Let’s also remember that at this point (the discussion or ” the knowledge is not formalized. Also, there usually really isn’t any need for it to be formalized as well, in reference to the Nonaka and Takeushi model (4 modes of Knowledge conversion) you’re just in the 2nd mode or Externalization (Tacit to Explicit) …. “It’s a discussion… not a dissertation.”

But to illustrate the importance of keeping track of discussions better, let’s talk about practical application of these ideas. The best way I can do this is to provide a scenario:

  • Say Joe is interested in finding out about applying usage of wikis to project team collaboration and the best way of doing this.
  • It could be that some forward thinking individual (or group of individuals) six months to a year ago actually started to explore this idea and actually built a prototype plan for implementing usage. Let’s call this group Team X.
  • Team X referenced a number of wiki models and software tools in a brief discussion. They also referenced a set of slides they initially wished to use to present the value of using wikis to their group.
  • However, Team X was disbanded due to restructuring and re-location of some of the key participants.
  • Now 6 months later, Joe is looking at using this same information. Becuase the presentation is referenced he is able to do research and locate and secure permission from one of the original members of Team X and leverage and adapt the content of the well-researched presentation to his needs.
  • He also, is able to gain some insight and suggestions from the remaining team members and build a better strategy for adopting wikis.
  • And everyone lives happily ever after… hopefully.


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