The Human Factor in KM4Dev


The Human Factor in KM4Dev

This group will discuss the human and the cultural side of knowledge management for development.

Location: Worldwide
Members: 85
Latest Activity: Dec 24, 2015

Why focus on the human factor?

"What has tended to happen in development is that organizations have generally leaned towards linear and technocentric interpretations of KM, more in line with the descriptive early traditions of knowledge management and organizational development or ‘institution building’" (Hovland, 2003)

"Careful attention is needed to the processes by which values and purpose are defined and articulated so as to create an enabling environment for knowledge management to succeed. Without these processes, organizational learning and knowledge management merely become toolkits and methodologies in a vacuum" (Pasteur et al., 2006). There is also a need to better understand how knowledge and learning may practically address and deal with issues of personality, culture, language, religion, and so on (Ramalingam 2005).

As Davenport and Prusak (1998) put it: “Effective knowledge management cannot take place without extensive behavioral, cultural and organizational change (…) Technology alone won’t make a person with expertise share with others. Technology alone won’t get an employee who is uninterested in seeking knowledge to hop onto a keyboard and searching or browsing.”

Knowledge management is first and foremost a people issue. Does the culture of your organization support ongoing learning and knowledge sharing? Are people motivated and rewarded for creating, sharing and using knowledge? Is there a culture of openness and mutual respect and support? Or is your organization very hierarchical where ‘knowledge is power’ and so people are reluctant to share? Are people under constant pressure to act with no time for knowledge-seeking or reflection? Do they feel inspired to innovate and learn from mistakes, or is there a strong ‘blame and shame’ culture?

These questions are essential to ask and to solve. There is a need to further understand the reasons why people engage in knowledge sharing behavior.

Let's use this group to share articles, insights and experiences to shine a light on the human factor in knowledge management for development!


Survey on Virtual communities of practice (VCoPs) knowledge sharing

Dear Km4dev members:This is to humbly remind you to participate in the survey on knowledgesharing within VCoPs. I will really appreciate if you take a few of yourminutes to fill in the questionnarire…Continue

Started by Hermon Ogbamichael Apr 27, 2011.

How to nurture the human factor in KM?! Good question!

In my world :-) I think two main things should be in place:- Leadership needs to support knowledge management- HRM systems need to support knowledge managementWithout those two, your organization…Continue

Tags: culture, humanfactor, hrm, leadership

Started by Johan Lammers Jun 18, 2009.

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Comment by Nadejda Loumbeva on November 4, 2009 at 1:38am
Johan, I really like how you draw on experimental psychology research ... (reminds me of when I did Psychology, some time back now). It puts the issue(s) into an interesting and useful perspective.

I think it is a very good idea to put together an article based on this discussion. Happy to help with this.
Comment by Johan Lammers on November 3, 2009 at 8:05pm
Wow what a great discussion! Let me add my two cents:

You might have seen it allready, but this [click to visit] is really an excellent TED talk on motivation. Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Being a social scientist myself I obviously completely agree with the things he's saying. making the parallel with Knowledge Management monetary rewards will not do the trick of stimulating effective knowledge sharing and adoption on the long run. Even worse: they might turn out to damage the organization if people post just to get "participation points" and keep on appearances of sharing to receive certain monetary rewards. Besides it'll lead to a more narrow focus described by Dan Pink: not very useful in our extremely complex international situations where thinking outside the box and innovations on a local scale are key for succes.

I also completely agree with Ian/Geoff in that public and visible recognition of your peers is key in not only stimulating knowledge behavior, but also nurturing the o so valuable intrinsic motivation at the same time.

Related to this, I wanted to share this model sprung from social psychology with you. I have used it in my research towards the human factor in knowledge sharing in development agencies:

The Theory of Planned Behavior from Ajzen (1991) is one of the most researched and validated models in social psychology that explain the factors that influence our behavior. In this case I focused on ‘knowledge behavior’. In general, it says that the motivation to perform a certain behavior is positively correlated with the frequency of actually doing it. This motivation is on its turn caused by a combination of three variables:
* The attitude one has towards the behavior in question
* The perceived control one has over actually performing this behavior
* And the perceived social norm the individual feels to perform the behavior in question

An attitude is formed by the other elements of the model, but also by an evaluation of costs and outcomes. What outcomes does a person want from their jobs... What outcomes does a person want from performing knowledge behavior... Questions that organizations should ask themselves in order to influence motivation.

The attitude of a person can be altered by a process of continuously stressing the importance of a certain behavior, sharing positive results, positive feedback and appraisal mechanisms. There should be constant reminders on the benefits of what effective knowledge management can achieve; not only for the organization, but also personal, saving him/her valuable time and needless effort. Rewarding mechanisms influence the attitude of a person in a positive way as well, but keep in mind the difference between formal and informal rewards. Informal rewards proved to be much more useful in this case. This is validated by an extensive body of research in social science.

I am tempted to explain the whole model, but that'll take me another 4 paragraphs... You can read my article in the KM4D journal if you are interested ;-)

On a more structured note, since I am feeling a little bit responsible starting this group and all :-) , I think it might be a good idea to organize the very interesting contributions in this discussions into one article, and post it on the wiki if we all like it. What do you think? Is anybody interested to help me making such an article (not that that means that the discussion is over now, on the contrary, just thinking about ways to channel this knowledge sharing into something beautiful :-)
Comment by Nadejda Loumbeva on November 3, 2009 at 6:44pm
About Nancy's link (excellent thought Nancy!!) on games and gaming, I guess what is really interesting there is how (very strong!) incentives are created to urge people to keep playing those games. This seems to be because people have lots of ownership and can take lots of initiative (i.e., they create their own avatars, etc.). It may also be because the rewards (i.e., knowing how well you have done, at the end of the game) are very clear ... And, the threat is very little too, i.e., if you loose the game, it is ok. (Reminds me a bit of Google that we keep hearing about.)
In knowledge sharing, should it not be similar? Lots of conditions to take ownership, then plenty of recognition and last but not least low level of threat (as it is ok to make mistakes) ... Sounds like a recipe ...

Comment by James Cohen on October 22, 2009 at 10:58am
Hmmm, Carl, you make a good point. That incentive mechansim could actually back fire. Nancy, I like the link that you sent. Is there a document to read through that gives a fuller description of what the presentation is trying to get at? I followed most of it along, but I'm guessing there's more detail to it.
Comment by Nancy White on October 21, 2009 at 3:48pm
Ian, this is what I have been bumbling about with trying to describe as triangulation!! (blog post still needs to be written). Both the large and the smaller stuff you just wrote about Carl.
Comment by Carl Jackson on October 21, 2009 at 11:34am
Respondting to James' pull incentives model am I right in thinking that the plan to recognise sharing will be low key / informal. Just mentioning because if this gets too formal it can have the unintended consequences of making some think the bar is set high and that their contribution might not be good enough. So in some ways recognising someone who's never posted before or has captured half a story under very difficult circumstances might be a second strand for praise alongside the clear excellence one. Maybe that's kind of like the framing point Nancy makes?
Comment by Ian Thorpe on October 21, 2009 at 1:00am
Just wanted to add a reflection that came from a conversation between Geoff Parcell and Etienne Wenger from our organization's first KM conference that we are currently holding. Geoff said that he felt that the most effective incentive that was the public and visible recognition of your peers. Etienne responded by saying that in addition there are ways to make horizontal exchange more visible to vertical hierarchies through things such as sending a note of appreciation for a valuable contribution to the contributor's supervisor as a way of acknowledging this work which might be otherwise invisible.
Comment by Charles Dhewa on October 20, 2009 at 4:04pm
I have just been looking at two organisations in the printing industry of Zimbabwe. One has old machines but good management and performs well to the extent of listing on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. The other has new state of the art machines but is not doing well due to poor management and lack of incentives.

My take: The human factor is supreme in all organisations.
Comment by Nancy White on October 19, 2009 at 6:51pm
Incentives and learning from games
You might check out the work of Amy Jo Kim about what creates incentives for game players. There has been a lot of theorizing about if and how this can be applied in work settings. I think context and framing REALLY matters, but I suspect there is something to be learned from the gaming world.
Comment by James Cohen on October 19, 2009 at 2:26pm
I’m in agreement with the ‘pro-incentives’ crowd. Although, yes, the overall service does have to benefit those using it or else they just flat out won’t use it, as with anything new, people have to be drawn in initially, and then extra perks help sustain ‘enthusiasm’ as Carl mentioned. And as Nedejda says, there are also negative incentives (such as a pre-established anti-knowledge sharing cultures) that need to be counter acted with added rewards.
Ian, I’d like to breakdown your definition of incentives into two parts. There’s ‘push’ and ‘pull’ incentives. Mechanisms like employee evaluations having a component about their knowledge contributions would be a push. Highlighting someone’s knowledge contribution from a back page up to a front page would be a pull. In designing strategies for implementing a knowledge management system in an organization a knowledge manager should know which incentives they’re capable of using. For example, my organisation is trying to establish a knowledge management system to bring together security sector reform practitioners from a number of different organisation (i.e. DFID, CIDA, SIDA etc.). My organisation cannot tell these others that they have to put knowledge sharing into their employee evaluations, so we need to think about how to draw in practitioners with ‘pull’ incentives.
I’d like to put out one idea and see if anyone has used this to any degree of success or failure. Part of our system is to have short operation guidance notes be available on-line to give ‘how to’ advice on SSR. Now of course there’s only so much that can be said in a 4 page note, and contextual examples of use need to be seen. The idea was to have people that use the notes post their experiences of using the notes back on to the website and say how it helped or did not help them and give other practitioners advice in certain context. To help stimulate contributions a thought was, if an example is posted that is written particularly well or highlights a very unique lesson, we would contact the author and see if they have anything more to add and photos so that we could make a special highlight of this on our main page. So essentially it’s the pull incentive of special recognition.
So has anyone tried this before? Or does anyone have tangible examples of how incentives worked or back fired in pulling in more contributions?

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