Becoming explicit

print to digitalOur old technology — paper — gave us an idea of knowledge that said that knowledge comes from experts who are filtered, printed, and then it’s settled, because that’s how books work. Our new technology shows us we are complicit in knowing. In order to let knowledge get as big as our new medium allows, we have to recognize that knowledge comes from all of us (including experts), it is to be linked, shared, discussed, argued about, made fun of, and is never finished and done. It is thoroughly ours – something we build together, not a product manufactured by unknown experts and delivered to us as if it were more than merely human. – David Weinberger

Helping people become explicit in their work, as David Weinberger suggests in the above article, was my concluding advice to delegates at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in London yesterday [curated tweets by Martin Couzins]. As learning and work get integrated, the co-creation of organizational knowledge develops from the sharing of our implicit knowledge. This is a messy, never-finished process that requires continuous engagement, usually through conversation. I think it is becoming rather obvious that knowledge cannot be directly transferred, but better understanding can emerge from open sharing. In the digital age, supporting knowledge sharing can be a key role for learning support in the organization.

The nature of work is shifting. The dominant framework is moving from corporations to networks. As I explained in my presentation, knowledge networks are optimized when they are based on openness, which enables transparency, and in turn fosters diversity, thus reinforcing the basic principle of openness. Over time, trust emerges. Openness can be supported through social networks, as they are non-hierarchical by design, allowing anyone to connect to everyone. Supporting social networks becomes a business imperative, and an potential role for learning & development staff. They can also promote knowledge sharing and help people develop personal knowledge management skills, a foundational competence for the connected workplace. As the graphic below shows, becoming explicit can have a direct impact on innovation.

becoming explicitBooks gave us the illusion that knowledge was stable. It never was. Now it’s time to think of organizational learning as a process of shared attempts to become explicit. As Gerd Leonhard remarked in the opening keynote yesterday, a critical skill in the near-future workplace will be sense-making. I could not agree more.

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