At our MW KM Symposium on Friday, a few of us had a lively debate over two cornerstones of knowledge management: capturing lessons learned and vetting “best” practices. While I don’t think we came to consensus on either topic, it was nice to actually discuss and challenge one another.
The debate over capturing lessons learned was centered around that focusing on only what went wrong never leads to what is right. That we should only focus on the positive, identify that and replicate it. I agree and disagree. I think there is still value in discussing what went wrong and then brainstorm on how to prevent what went wrong. And, that’s the key. Only capturing the “wrong” doesn’t do anyone any good but taking it the next step and realizing how to prevent what went wrong is a key part of sharing knowledge and not committing the same mistake over and over again.
I found it interesting that most of our debates centered around semantics and that semantics seem to play an awfully big part in pitching and clarifying knowledge management activities. “Lessons Learned” meant only focusing on the negative for one speaker; while myself and others felt that implied in “lessons learned” is learning. So, in a sense, we agreed that only focusing on the negative is not productive but talking about prevention and sharing how to prevent is learning and vital to any organization.
I presented the premise that we should enable people to simply share stories and not worry about setting up committees to review and vet “best” practices. If something is “good enough” it will meet the need of the person seeking the information to help them not start from a blank slate. That no longer do we have the time or resources to vet best practices. And, while there may be industries where there is truly one best way to do something, I contend those are really standard operating procedures and should be integrated into training manuals and process documentation. For other organizations, however, there may be lots of good ways to accomplish something. We should capture, serve up and let people decide and customize these practices for themselves and re-share to keep the sharing cycle constantly flowing.