Monday, 12 May 2008

Transferring knowledge alters meaning

Most knowledge management and knowledge transfer schemes or frameworks that I frequently encounter fit into one of two categories
(a) large scale frameworks that suggest how good practice can be moved from one place to another, with the focus on structure, architecture, policies, procedures and processes to make it happen, and
(b) the detail of how knowledge itself is a combination of something intangible and tangible - and all the complexities of working with something so nefarious as it moves between two individuals

Remember the game we played as children, called "consequences", "chineses whispers" or "telephone", where you passed along a message between people and then found out how it got "corrupted" the further it got away from the original source? Well, I've been wondering what goes on in that game, for the dynamics are true in the transfer of information down most verbal and even written communication lines. What one person intends in their message, another will read differently, and then this other will pass on the message in a subtley different form, and so on.

What does this mean for real life better practices? An example in healthcare that I've been watching closely is one where there is an excellent improved way of working that is described and supported by a number of manuals, or modules. For me it is interesting to watch how in a short period of time these are being streamlined by the adopting population into a slimline set of guidlines, a pragmatic set of notes rather than a comprehensive reference kit. I am sure some of the detail will be lost in translation. However, maybe even more value has been added by the new developments. Will we ever know unless there is some form of evaluation to assess this?

It reminds me of a river system where the flow starts out swift and strong and over time it fans out to form a delta with tributaries. The question is; if you've got a delta forming in your organisation, is this what you expected and what you need for that piece of knowledge transfer?

Creative Commons 2008 Sarah Fraser Attribute-Non-Commercial-No Derviative

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