Collaborative Development of Knowledge Representations â€” a Novel Approach to Knowledge Elicitation and Transfer pp55-62
Knowledge Management (KM) initiatives are driven by the need to preserve and share knowledge, in particular tacit knowledge that experts have built up in the course of doing their jobs. Such initiatives require key experts to be identified and their knowledge elicited. However, knowledge elicitation generally runs into a number of communication and motivational problems. These are well known in domains such as expert systems but it is only more recently that KM practitioners have become aware of them. Standard KM approaches separate the elicitation and, possibly, encoding of knowledge from its subsequent sharing. This paper outlines an approach where elicitation and transfer, and possibly also creation, are carried out in one process. This involves identifying key experts and stakeholders. These two groups then work together to develop a representation of the experts' domain knowledge. The role of the KM specialist thus becomes one of facilitation rather than elicitation. This approach has a number of advantages. It is more likely to engage the interest of experts and so avoid some of the motivational problems that are commonly encountered in knowledge elicitation. It does not rely on knowledge management specialists who do not share the experts' language, to capture and record their expertise. In particular the approach helps overcome the perceptual biases of domain experts. It is well known that perception is often selective and that judgements can be anchored on false premises. Experts are not immune from these biases but they are more likely to be eliminated as a result of the critical dialogue that occurs between experts and stakeholders using our approach. Our approach has been developed in the course of an action research project with a major engineering company. Staff who worked on a help desk had particular expertise which was of interest to other departments, such as design and production. The research data gathered was necessarily qualitative since the focus of concern was on the richness of transfer achieved. Early results suggest that communication or motivation problems encountered by conventional approaches are avoided and that a richer transfer of knowledge results. In particular it helps to identify and capture relevant tacit knowledge. The resulting representation may also form the starting point for a knowledge base which will be available to a wider community.
Keywords: knowledge elicitation, knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, action research
Currently there is much interest in the use of Web 2.0 technologies to support knowledge sharing in organisations. Many successful projects have been reported. These reports emphasise how the use of such technology has unlocked new pathways for knowledge transfer. However, the limitations of Web 2.0 technologies are not yet well understood and potential difficulties may have been overlooked. This paper reports a case study of a Wiki which was implemented to support a group of researchers. Although belonging to the same institution, the group members were relatively dispersed and their research areas were disparate. Nevertheless a short study showed that there were benefits to be gained from sharing knowledge and that many of the researchers felt that a Wiki would be a good mechanism to support this. A Wiki was implemented and was initially very successful. A significant number of researchers contributed to the Wiki and almost all made use of it. However the usage declined over time and attempts to stimulate interest by providing incentives for contributions were unsuccessful. One year after launch use was minimal. A qualitative study was carried out to understand the reasons for this decline in use, and is reported in this paper. Responses suggest that two factors may have been particularly significant in explaining the failure of the system. One problem appears to have been a lack of critical mass. Only a small proportion of users are likely to contribute and there may be a threshold size for a community to be able to support a vibrant Wiki. Time also seems to have been an issue. Some respondents said that they simply were too busy to contribute to or use the system. Organisations which are considering the use of Web 2.0 technologies to support a knowledge management initiative should consider the likely impact of these factors in their own situation. Although technologies such as Wiki have great potential there are also pitfalls in undertaking such projects which are not yet well understood.
Keywords: Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Wiki, knowledge sharing, knowledge management, collaborative technologies