Michael R. Lissack
At the close of our second year, Emergence is pleased to present this special issue on knowledge management. To gather Paul Cilliers, Yasmin Merali, Ralph Stacey, Brian Goodwin, David Snowden, Geoffrey Hodgson, Peter Allen, Haridimos Tsoukas, Max Boisot, Jack Cohen, Duska Rosenberg, Jürgen Klenk, Gerd Binnig, and Günter Schmidt in one place would be the KM meeting of the year. The list of authors is unprecedented and the collected wisdom nonpareil. For this all of us are indebted to Yasmin Merali and Dave Snowden, who served as special editors for the issue, and to the Institute for Knowledge Management (an affiliate of IBM), which sponsored some of the research contained herein.
Knowledge management has developed a bad reputation in corporate circles, due to a plethora of failed projects, poorly conceived initiatives, and frankly too much hype too soon. As Thoreau wrote about building castles in the air, “It is fine so long as you put a foundation beneath.” The authors in this issue are dedicated to creating a sound foundation on which knowledge management practice can rest. In so doing, much of the hype of the past five years about unlocking the value of networked knowledge workers might become reality. The increasingly global nature of organizations, enabled by technology and to a lesser extent by the growth of the internet, has increased network connections to the point where the old infrastructure of BPR, the balanced scorecard, and the learning organization has started to break down.
Dave Snowden writes, “Knowledge management is a difficult and challenging subject that has been subject to oversimplistic approaches from a variety of authors and technology vendors.” The work of the authors in both this issue and the issue before it is very different. No longer will the august members of Boston's Lunar Society (a monthly meeting of the knowledge management “gurus”) need to demur from using the words “knowledge management” when discussing knowledge management practice. More importantly, no longer will CEOs roll their eyes when hearing the words.
Knowledge, in my idiosyncratic definition, is whatever it takes to create a willingness to act. Thus, knowledge management is about creating environments, opportunities, values, conditions, and constraints, which promote such willingness. This issue of Emergence is an act of such creation.