What is that thing?

Unknown seaweedWhat the heck is that? (With apologies to Steve Martin).

Friends and contacts ask me what I'm looking to do in my next career, and it isn't always clear what to call the role. What do you call a job that where people do things like:

  • find ways to help people work together more effectively (collaboration)
  • reinforce that what people know is of critical importance to the success of the organization
  • this knowledge does no good locked under one roof; decide how to make best use of it (strategically, tactically)
  • establish that we don't know everything (individually; internally), and that we must reach out to others for assistance
  • define the ways to reach out to others that make sense for the organization
  • work with individuals to develop/reinforce good personal KM practices
  • work with the group to decide what personal practices make the most sense for them for working together
  • ...
  • given this, and more, what people / processes / tools do we need to make it work?

These are some of the elements of what I've been calling knowledge manaegement. But given the relatively few positions out there, I suspect that other people use different terminology. If you focus on information, you might go one direction. If your focus is on learning / training you might go another. And being in the market for KM-type roles, I find that searching the job listings for "knowledge management" to be not the most fruitful activity out there. I've looked for the IBM-emphasized term "social business," and for "collaboration," and other combinations.

What do you call it?

Of course, one of the reasons I enjoy the area of knowledge management so much is that there are many different ways to approach it: organizational design, technology, information science, learning, innovation, anthropology, etc, etc. That makes for interesting definitions - they all depend on your approach.

These thoughts are inspired by a lunch with Johanna Rothman, author of Hiring The Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets & Science Of Hiring Technical People (and several others). There's even a chapter on "what do you call that" when job titles don't exist.

[Photo: "Unknown seaweed" by J Brew]

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