Get to Know SIG KM: Knowledge Management
Today we continue the “Get to Know A SIG / Get to Know a Chapter” series with an interview with SIG KM: Knowledge Management. SIG KM concerns itself “with all aspects of knowledge within all types of organizations, including knowledge creation, documentation, codification, sharing, and how these activities promote innovation, learning, effectiveness, and profitability.” To learn more about SIG KM and their activities within and beyond ASIS&T, I interviewed Denise Bedford, Adjunct Professor, Communication Culture and Technology, Georgetown University and Schulich Business School, York University; Visiting Scholar, Coventry University; Virtual Fellow, US Department of State; and current SIG KM Chair. Also in the interview was Sara Mooney, Senior Business Analyst at Acuity Systems and SIG KM Communications Officer, and I also emailed with Tricia Bradshaw, Data Acquisitions Specialist for Reis and SIG KM Chair-Elect. We talked about SIG KM’s areas of interest, the activities they engage in, and the benefits the SIG can provide. We also discussed how SIG KM collaborates with other units within ASIS&T and organizations beyond ASIS&T, and the SIG’s upcoming new web site. We hope this interview allows you to get to know SIG KM better, interested in attending their Happy Hour and other events at the upcoming ASIS&T Annual Meeting, and helping out as an officer or volunteer!
Place and Role of SIG KM
Adam: Because I know both of you have some history with ASIS&T, how long have you been a member of ASIS&T and how long have you been involved with SIG KM?
Denise: I’ve been a member of ASIS&T since, I think, about 1986 I think. And I think I’ve been an officer in almost every SIG [laughter], literally, including the SIGs that have gone away. But I’ve been a member of KM for all that time, but I haven’t been active as an officer until this year. I’ve always worked behind the scenes on programs for conferences and meetings. One of the early areas of knowledge management research was artificial intelligence. There was another SIG a while back, SIG ALP, which I don’t think exists anymore, Automated Language Processing. We used to promote a lot of programs and workshops on KM topics through ALP. There is a big demand now for continuing education in knowledge management; what we’re trying to do with SIG KM is get more workshops going. But anyway, it’s a tremendous SIG because the world of KM, particularly in business and industry, is just exploding.
Sara: I’ve been involved with ASIS&T since 2010, when I was elected as a New Leader. I’ve been involved with SIG KM pretty much since the beginning; I believe I got involved with it in my first Annual Meeting, and have been in and out as an officer since that point. Mostly doing communications, redoing the web site, and trying to keep the Twitter and some of the Facebook items going as well.
Tricia: I have now been an officer of SIG KM since 2012. I very much enjoy working with my fellow officers and members of the SIG on ideas for research projects and events for the Annual Meeting.
Adam: So, obviously SIG KM focuses on knowledge management, but would you say there are particular things within that realm that you focus on? Would you say it is more on practice than on research, or…?
Denise: Well, this is an interesting question. We pulled together a small research group within SIG KM, because we wanted to learn more about what the SIG’s focus had been over the lsat 60 years. We used semantic analysis methods to explore the ten facets of KM in all of the JASIST articles and the ASIS&T Bulletin articles, and the proceedings, back to the beginning of the Association. We looked at what the areas of emphasis were. We wanted to know, for example, whether ASIS&T has a history of covering intellectual capital, organizational culture, organizational learning, knowledge leadership and strategy, collaboration… Because in 2013 we asked the international KM community about their awareness of and use of the published literature. What we learned was surprising: few in the KM community had heard of or read any of the ASIS&T publications. They don’t participate in ASIS&T, they don’t read the journal, and we’re trying to figure out why is that? What we learned in our preliminary semantic analysis this summer was really interesting. We found that we — ASIS&T — have tended to focus more on information management than knowledge management. You find very little of what a KM practitioner would consider to be KM in our publications. It isn’t because ASIS&T members don’t have background in those areas, it’s just because, I think, we in the KM community within ASIS&T haven’t said we’re open to all these other ideas, you know. It’s that we’ve tended to focus on organizational information. So there’s a lot of opportunity to expand our reach and membership.
…few in the KM community had heard of or read any of the ASIS&T publications. They don’t participate in ASIS&T, they don’t read the journal, and we’re trying to figure out why is that?
And it’s very clear, in fact, I’m working with Jean-Louis Ermine, a thought leader in the French knowledge management club — he’s a professor at one of the French universities — on a Master Class in the MASK methodology. He emphasizes the fact that the information economy was a brief transition state between the industrial economy and the knowledge economy. And now we’re in a radical shift to a knowledge economy. And it seems like if we in SIG KM can open up opportunities for our people to talk about that more, rather than just the information management, we will be able to bring more of the broader knowledge management community to ASIS&T.
Sara: And to add on to that, it’s interesting just in the last 10 years of knowledge management, how it’s moved from that information where, you’re just trying to capture that information, to more of a facilitator role within organizations, where you’re trying to capture not only tacit knowledge, but also word of mouth. So things that you would never even think about trying to capture, but trying to connect two people so that they can explain to each other what’s going on. So it’s become very much a social skill, as well as an information management skill.
Adam: So it sounds like that’s one of the ways that both the field of knowledge management and also the SIG’s activities, the SIG’s emphasis might have changed a little bit over time? Denise, maybe you could speak a little bit more to that?
Denise: I think so, but I think we still have a bit of a dichotomy, that we’re trying to bridge. I would say our push is not only to get more people from ASIS&T involved in a broader conversation about KM, but to bring practitioners and professionals from the broader KM community to ASIS&T. There was a time — Sara probably wasn’t born then, but [laughter] — when SIG KM and SIG MGT (Management) were almost entirely people from business and industry, and not from academia. One of the challenges we face today in ASIS&T is because we have become so academic. Fortune 100 and 500 companies, large public sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, they are all “doing KM”; that’s where most of the new knowledge is being created, in industry. They’re at the World Bank, the US State Department, Goodyear, Sherwin Williams, Timken, the US Federal Reserve Bank, or pharmaceutical companies. So what we’re trying to do is to get out to the chapters to say, in your area, who are the businesses that we can tap into? These folks are looking for professional organizations and ways to collaborate, and could bring tremendous value back to ASIS&T.
It’s interesting just in the last 10 years of knowledge management, how it’s moved from just trying to capture that information, to more of a facilitator role within organizations, where you’re trying to capture not only tacit knowledge, but also word of mouth. So it’s become very much a social skill, as well as an information management skill.
As Sara said, she’s been a faithful supporter of SIG KM, but we want about 20-25 people supporting the SIG. If you look at the Special Libraries Association’s KM division, they’ve got a large team, they’ve got a strategic plan, every other year they’re doing a user survey to figure out, “What do you need?” So one of the things we’re doing — we had a conference call last night — is a strategic plan for SIG KM that will tie into the ASIS&T strategic plan. We’re doing an open member survey that will provide us with the information for that plan.
Adam: Right. And I know a big part of that plan is to appeal to practitioners more, because they realize that’s a bit of an issue within ASIS&T at this point.
Activities and Events
Adam: So what activities does SIG KM engage in at Annual Meetings?
Adam: Good showing!
Sara: Happy Hour, yes!
Denise: The one thing about the SIG KM officers is, I think we’ve all had job transitions this year! [laughter] So I think we’d have to say it’s a miracle that we have these things on the program! But Heather used to do networking dinners, you know, that social aspect where you’re sitting around a table, getting to know somebody for the first time, and just chatting. That’s really important, if we can start to do that.
Tricia: Since knowledge management is a broad term that combines many different disciplines in it, as a SIG KM member you have the opportunity to speak, work and collaborate with other people in your field, academics and practitioners, who face the same issues. And we try to encourage those opportunities in our activities and events.
Denise: I think our panels are really interesting. We’ve connected and collaborated with SIG ED and IEP this year and SIG MGT in the past. The Happy Hour is really interesting, and we would really like to get people to come to the Happy Hour.
Tricia: Yes, the greatest example of our engagement is the Happy Hour we have hosted at the Annual Meeting each year since 2013.
Adam: You want to go ahead and explain the Happy Hour a little bit for people who don’t know about it?
[The Happy Hour] is free and open; we pay for it. … It’s a great place to come and get to know people. You don’t have to be a member of SIG KM to come, but we would love to have you consider joining if you do come. I think we’ve always had a packed room. I know there’s food that’s free, too!
Denise: Absolutely. It has three different goals. One, it’s free and open; we pay for it. Two, usually we try to do it at the beginning at the conference, so people are just coming to the conference. It’s a great place to come and get to know people. You don’t have to be a member of SIG KM to come, but we would love to have you consider joining if you do come. I think we’ve always had a packed room. I know there’s food that’s free, too! Third, the admission requirement is that you give us two quick responses. This is the third year we’ve done this, and we actually have a research project running off of this Happy Hour. The first year it was “Give us an example of a good and a bad knowledge management experience you’ve had.” It was amazing some of the stuff we got, on two 3″ x 5″ cards. Totally anonymous; some people needed to write more than one, of each, because they had so many bad experiences! Last year we asked people to tell us “crimes against KM,” and again got some really good examples, of people being persecuted for not being able to express their ideas. One of the most poignant examples was from somebody who had been deployed to Afganistan, and it was, his crime or his bad experience, I can’t remember which year it was from, but he said their telecommunications was so poorly set up by the company that the US government had hired, that it actually put lives at risk. So we’re building that research base, and from that we’re trying to create a code of ethics for the knowledge economy. Because if you think about codes of ethics and legal codes, they’re all related to property. And knowledge has totally different economic properties, than other types of things.
So the Happy Hour, the panels… Two of our panels are bridging research and practice. One of them I’m hoping will generate a lot of discussion because we’re looking at, we actually used knowledge management methods to look at library science education.
Adam: Um-hmm, that does sound interesting!
Denise: It was quite revealing!
Adam: So to wrap up on activities, do you engage in activities outside of the Annual Meeting, or is it mostly the Happy Hour, and panels, and other conference events that take place?
Denise: We are starting to. We’re talking, say, to the University of Maryland, about offering a knowledge audit workshop to the local community. We’re also developing the agenda for a Knowledge Sciences Symposium 2.0, in collaboration with the US Department of Transportation, in 2016. Again, a free and open event. We have some topics for webinars. We haven’t yet done those things, but they are on our agenda. And Sara has a great idea for a KM newsletter, which would also allow people to talk about what they’re doing.
Sara: It’s still very much in the high level stages, but it’s another way for people to get involved and people to… And it could be a feature within our web site, that people can come in and talk about what they’re doing and some of the processes that they use. So we start sharing those methodologies between the practitioners, and so the academics can see what truly does go on in an outside place of employment.
Web Site and Building Connections
Denise: Sara, I’m talking too much! You go ahead! Talk about the web site! We’re really hoping to ramp up, and Sara’s done a lot of work on this!
Adam: Sure, we can jump to discussing your online venues! Go ahead, Sara.
Sara: So for the web site, what we did is we took the old one that’s been hanging out on the previous incarnation of the ASIS&T servers, and I took that and moved it into the new platform on the new ASIS&T web site. So it’s brand-new, we built in WordPress from the bottom up. And we’ve looked at different types of things that we can include in there, reorganized it for a little bit better findability and to expand on our knowledge, keeping in mind that a lot of times not all of our members can come to the Annual Meeting. So how can we disseminate our information to them in a more effective and efficient fashion? So that includes things like our meeting notes, new research that’s being presented, videos that we might have from different organizations that allow us to post them, or that we can find on YouTube in the public domain. Those types of things. So that way we can pull in a bunch of different people, and different views from them, and keep KM moving in a forward direction.
Denise: One of the challenges KM practitioners have, and if we’re trying to attract those folks back to ASIS&T… The carrot here is, “Where can I learn what I need to know about KM?” Right now it’s scattered all over the place. We did some research, published, I guess it was late last year, on the information landscape of knowledge management. Most of the really high quality research that’s published is unaffordable to practitioners. They go to Google Scholar, they go to Google. They’re not connected with an academic institution, their company may not have a subscription to any of these journals. So what Sara and I discussed was, if we can make the SIG KM web site a really valuable web resource for people who are in KM, that may be a motivation for them to come and join ASIS&T and join the SIG.
A lot of this stuff is free, and the people in the KM community are so willing to share! If you pick up the phone, or send an email to Etienne Wenger, he’s going to respond! [laughter] And I picked up email and sent a note to Jean-Louis Ermine in France and he said, “I’d be delighted to work with you! Here are all my materials; let’s develop this masterclass.” So I think if we can make those connections for people, if ASIS&T can be kind of like the hub for those kinds of connections, the advantage we have is that there are no other major professional associations in this space. There are many other small KM associations, but they don’t have the strong history of ASIS&T.
Sara: Yes, it’s a very, I can’t say splintered, but you have pockets of it, and a lot of times it falls under another larger organization. It’s very interesting because, and I’m looking at this from a North American perspective, a lot of our colleagues in Europe and Australia are doing fantastic things with knowledge management, in their organizations. The North American mindset is just slightly different, but there’s so much we can learn from those people, in those countries, right now. And I think that’s a very big opportunity for us to actually increase, you know, our engagement, especially going to Copenhagen next year. Looking at that as well.
The North American [knowledge management] mindset is just slightly different, but there’s so much we can learn from those people, in [Europe and Australia], right now. And I think that’s a very big opportunity for us to actually increase our engagement, especially going to Copenhagen next year.
We want to increase awareness of the fact that we’re interested in KM in the US. It makes more of those connections, not necessarily on a thought leader level, but on a practitioner level.
Denise: Absolutely. Next year hopefully we’re going to propose a workshop in the MASK methodology, which is coming out of France. It’s a methodology that’s been used in Europe for 20 years. It never got over to the US, because all of the materials are in French! Nobody ever bothered to create an English-language version of it. It’s like six different dimensions of expertise, and all grounded on the idea of knowledge capital. And Kraft Foods has figured out a way, working with Jean-Louis, to create what’s called a knowledge block. It’s an extensive PowerPoint architecture that describes a knowledge domain, and the great thing is that it’s used, it’s shared, and it’s read. Because it’s easy to traverse; it’s not this long, long narrative somebody wrote down when they were talking to an expert, it’s not just a video. It’s a holistic approach to capturing expertise. So all these companies that are looking at the “silver tsunami,” the Baby Boomers retiring, are looking for this kind of methodology. Most Baby Boomers are not like me — they actually retire, I am now just starting my third attempt at retirement! [laughter] But there seems to be a real hunger for a methodology that works.
So I’m thinking, Copenhagen is the perfect opportunity to bring our French professor over for the workshop, we’re going to try to offer this as a one-day workshop, so people at least get an introduction to what it is. But next year we’re hoping people will come with a lot of ideas for what they want to see in programs, and we’re hoping the user survey will encourage people to suggest some things. We want to increase awareness of the fact that we’re interested in KM in the US. It makes more of those connections, not necessarily on a thought leader level, but on a practitioner level.
Adam: I assume the new web site is about to go up, is the intention here?
Sara: Yes, right now it’s pretty bare bones because, I have the structure in place but to populate out the actual content takes a little bit of planning! [laughter] But yes, the structure is there and ready to go, it’s just a matter of getting the web site to, to turn it over so we can turn it on. I’m really hoping to have that up by the time we get into the Annual Meeting or shortly thereafter.
Being and Getting Involved
Denise: And this is an area where, you know, if Sara had more help… So I’m going to try and steer two students her way; anybody else who is interested in working on that outreach, we’d love to hear from them. Hopefully they’ll stand out in the user survey, too.
Adam: How would people go about getting involved, then, with SIG KM, if they wanted to volunteer to help out?
Sara: They can contact either Denise or myself, or Tricia, and we can certainly set them up and listen to their ideas of how they’d like to be involved.
Denise: And we’ll find a place for everybody who wants to be involved.
Adam: Are there particular areas you’re looking for volunteers in? Obviously you said in terms of helping, Sara, with the communications and the web site, but…?
Tricia: In my upcoming term as Chair of the SIG, I hope to see SIG KM continue to work on collaborative research projects and to have a larger digital presence. We’re happy to have support and would welcome more volunteers to help us in these areas!
Sara: Right. I mean, a lot of it right now is, we’re looking for somebody who might want to help research items that are open for people to use that we may not have on our web site. So articles or resources that they find that they might want to talk about or mention, at that point. I think that’s our biggest area that we need right now.
Denise: One of the things you will see on the new site are the top KM peer-reviewed journals, or any kind of KM events around the world. And as Sara said, if somebody has read an article recently that they thought was good and they just want to, you know, alert everybody to it, maybe they can do that on our Facebook page.
Adam: You have a Facebook and a Twitter I believe, right, Sara?
Sara: Yes, yes we do; our Twitter is just @sigkm.
Adam: So the kinds of things you intend to be posting there and on the web site are basically what Denise just said, right? Events, journals that people should be looking at, things of that nature?
Denise: Before my second retirement, I was at Kent State, and I created what we called KM @ KSU webinars. All of those webinars were open and under Creative Commons licensing. So we’re also going to post all of those to the new SIG KM web site. They’re all on YouTube now, so it’s just a link to YouTube. We also went through and looked at the thought leaders in all of the 10 facets of KM, and have links to some of their good videos. As we do more webinars… And we want people to suggest topics for webinars that they want to give, not just us talking to them. If someone’s at Ernst and Young, please come and tell us what you’re doing in a webinar! And so those will also be posted there.
…the SIG exists for our members. Without them, the SIG would not exist. So, if somebody has an idea of what they would like to talk about or like to share, or information they would like to know about … we have to know what they want in order to provide it for them. I think in that way, it gets down to the true core of knowledge management there!
Sara: I think what people have to remember is that the SIG exists for them. Without them, the SIG would not exist. So, if somebody has an idea of what they would like to talk about or like to share, or information they would like to know about, it’s a two-way communication; we have to know what they want in order to provide it for them. I think in that way, it gets down to the true core of knowledge management there! [laughter] We have to know what you want, what you need to do your job, and vice versa. So it has to be a two-way communication street.
Collaboration and Fun
Adam: Denise has talked a lot about the benefits of SIG KM to an ASIS&T audience or to people beyond ASIS&T trying to get involved with ASIS&T, and that’s very good to hear! How about collaborations within ASIS&T, with other SIGs or with, you mentioned that you’ve talked to some of the chapters for example, in terms of things you’ve worked on collaboratively either in the past or currently?
Denise: I think all of our panels are co-sponsored. This year we worked mostly with SIG ED and SIG IEP. There’s one panel we have, it’s largely with the Drexel team. It’s “Impact Driven Work: Tearing Down the Firewalls Between Research and Practice.” They’re with IEP.
Sara: And then the second one we’re doing, also with IEP, is “Cultural Diversity in LIS Research.”
Denise: And then there’s one that we’re doing with SIG ED, which is on KM methods in LIS education (“Knowledge Management in LIS Education: Bridging Research and Practice“). This one was really interesting because, it actually started out of a conference in Turkey last year, the ICKM, the International Conference in Knowledge Management. Dr. Kim Dalkir from McGill, in Montreal, put together a session at ICKM and then expanded that into a special journal issue of Education for Information. And she solicited articles from several people, and that issue was published this summer. And we pulled I think three or four of the authors from that issue, into ASIS&T, for the panel. So here’s an example of not only how we collaborated with SIG ED, but this is also coming out of another international KM organization.
Adam: Right! So you’re certainly looking to continue to collaborate within and beyond ASIS&T, you said, with chapters as well as with SIGs, and with these other organizations that are important to knowledge mangement, right? It sounds like that’s a big drive behind the SIG, at this point?
Denise: Yes. I hope it is, I hope it is. But this is a big effort, and that’s why we need 20 people working on this team. And people who are in France and in Denmark and in England.
Sara: Right. It’s most definitely a multi-year effort, because with the environment and landscape of knowledge management changing so quickly, it takes a lot to keep up with that and make a solid plan of where to go. But I think by involving the members and the outside collaborators, it really does help form a clear direction of where we need to be going.
Denise: Sara made a really good point in that, KM is a rapidly evolving field, but there are still some areas of it that are really solid and sustainable. And we need to keep supporting those while we’re trying to chase what’s at the boundaries.
KM is a rapidly evolving field, but there are still some areas of it that are really solid and sustainable. And we need to keep supporting those while we’re trying to chase what’s at the boundaries. … [And] it’s not just all serious research, it’s fun!
Adam: It sounds like that the three of you, at least, are really engaged, and the SIG is trying to engage with the community, in ASIS&T and elsewhere. And certainly I hope that the post helps with that effort; I hope that the Happy Hour helps, and lots of people go there and get involved with that, come to the business meeting, and get involved with the SIG in that way. Because it sounds like there’s going to be lot of really great things going to be happening here in the near future!
Denise: And I would say this is a really friendly group! So if you come to SIG KM you’re probably going to have some fun! It’s not just all serious research, it’s fun!
Thanks again to SIG KM and to Denise, Sara, and Tricia for being willing to be interviewed! If this post has raised your interest in SIG KM or their events and activities, we encourage you to engage with us in the comment section below, to check out their web site and social media venues, or to e-mail Denise, Tricia, or Sara for further details on volunteering and getting involved. We also, as always, welcome your feedback and thoughts on our “Get to Know” series via the comments.