July 12, 2004

KM Thought of the Day

The more I think about how many firms have struggled with the whole KM concept, the more I think people like Dennis Kennedy and Thomas Collins are on the right track: KM is a very hard thing to institutionalize. So why not focus on Personal KM instead?

Are we trying to manage knowledge for the enterprise, or is the real goal to make each of us more productive on a personal level within that organization? We all have very different personal work styles and approaches. So is the best KM solution the one that makes us all march in the same direction? (Let's face it, lemmings are not going to be all that creative or innovative -- and I'll let you decide whether it's fair to make the inference to large firm environments.) I'll concede that for informational integrity (think litigation databases, case managers, and document management systems), data needs to have a certain level of conformity -- or the result is a chaotic mess. But does everyone use that data in the same way? Methinks not.

So is the better solution the one that embraces the fact that we're all different? What's the point of promoting diversity and then make us all row the same way?

So, for example, while lawyers in a particular practice group may need to keep up on new laws and cases, what's relevant and important to me on any given day is probably different from the rest of my group. We work differently, and therefore we organize information, matters, and even personal workspace differently, both physically and digitally. Even at the most simplistic level, I'll bet that if you randomly select three lawyers within the same practice group, you'll find that they manage their daily to do's in a different method. If there's diversity for such a basic task, then think about what happens for more complex needs. Thus while we may need to access the same information, many of us do so from different perspectives and probably with different goals in mind. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa.

Thus I think the marketplace is screaming very loudly (in a collective silent scream, if you like the irony of it all) for a KM solution that addresses our unique individual informational and stylistic needs. As it's been said, there's riches in niches, and I think the benefits of personal productivity are such that the total is more than just the sum of its parts. Innovation and creativity don't just plod along. They leap out from the most unusual places, in fits and starts. Trying to "manage" that process isn't the answer -- embracing and empowering it is.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard