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Networking is Knowledge Management
Brian W. Pascal, RPR, CMP, RPT

There is still quite a lot of confusion about what Knowledge Management actually is and what it involves. Knowledge management is not an end in itself, but rather a means to achieving organizational and personal goals. Look at both your long-term goals and short to medium-term objectives: What are they? How might knowledge management help you to achieve them? What knowledge do you need in order to do your job or further your career aspirations? How can you acquire, create, use and share that knowledge to bring it about?

IPM's Community of Specialists is a network of people who share a common interest in a specific area of knowledge or competence and are willing to work and learn together over a period of time to develop and share that knowledge. Learning is a social activity and people learn best in group settings. IPM's Communities can vary quite widely in their characteristics. Some exist for years while others form around a specific purpose and disband once that purpose has been achieved. Members may be very similar, or they may be multi-disciplinary, such as is often the case in communities that are formed around addressing a specific challenge. Some may be small and localized while others may be geographically dispersed 'virtual communities' that communicate primarily by telephone, e-mail or online discussion groups.

The ongoing success of the Community depends on members' continued interest and involvement. In the life of any community, members will come and go, and there will usually be a need for ongoing recruitment - both to replace lost members and to 'keep things fresh'. Similarly, roles and responsibilities will often be rotated between members over time. How well new members are welcomed and integrated into it will affect the ongoing success of the Community. The Community will probably be taking a more proactive and formal role in assuming responsibility for the relevant body of knowledge, with typical activities including: creating knowledge maps, organizing knowledge resources, identifying and seeking to fill knowledge gaps, etc. Here, the roles of Knowledge Managers will be particularly important.

IPM's Communities provide a valuable vehicle for developing, sharing and managing specialist knowledge and avoids 'reinventing the wheel'. The Communities can cut across your internal departmental boundaries and formal reporting lines and can be more flexible than traditional organizational units. The Communities generate new knowledge in response to problems and opportunities and provide early warning of potential opportunities and threats.

IPM's Community of Specialists also provide benefits for individual community members by having access to expert help to expand horizons, gain knowledge and seek help in addressing work challenges. Members often feel more conscious of, and confident in, their own personal knowledge inside a Community because it provides a non-threatening forum to explore and test ideas or validate courses of action. The Community can foster a greater sense of professional commitment and enhance members' professional reputation.

Communities thrive when they are supported and valued by the organization. This is a 'two-way street' so it is important that a Community develops in alignment with overall organizational goals, rather than to its own agenda. This will increase the chances of ongoing support from the organization, such as: providing resources; recognition and reward of community members and particularly co-ordinators; help in removing barriers to Community membership; and involvement of Communities in key management decisions and problem solving.

IPM values its Community of Specialists and continues to provide the opportunities that bring the Community together in the form of Chapter Meetings, Events, Workshops and Conferences. This is a vital aspect of Knowledge Management. We have an upcoming slate of exciting topics to stretch your mind, fill your knowledge gaps and expose you to experts in their fields. I am proud of the past involvement and participation of our Community members and hope this continues far into the future. Your success is our success.


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