Knowledge Maturing and the Four C’s

A tweet by @anoush from the ECTEL10 conference in Barcelona last week alerted me to a paper being presented there by Andreas Schmidt, entitled ‘Knowledge Maturing Activities and Practices Fostering Organisational Learning: results of an Empirtical Study‘ (Kaschig et al 2010).

In our work, we have used the term ‘charting‘ to describe the process whereby an individual manages and optimises their interaction with the people and resources who (may) have a role in their learning and development. A Charting system should allow them to:

  • Discover and Consume knowledge and resources created by others, leveraging value from the collective.
  • Connect with others who share interests or goals to develop ideas, share experience, provide peer-support, or work collaboratively to achieve shared goals.
  • Create new knowledge (structures) by combining and extending sources (people and resources and personal reflections etc) to create a dynamic, faithful and individually focused view of the knowledge and understanding they possess about a given topic, and how different topics inter-relate within their personal world-view. This sense-making process is continual, and ensures that the knowledge space evolves with the ideas of the individual, their network and the whole collective.
  • Contribute new knowledge back to the network formally (as reports, publications, and other standalone artefacts) and informally (as reflections, ideas, ratings and other context-dependent content) for the benefit of either a local group or the whole collective.
  • But how well do these behaviours (Consume, Connect, Create and Contribute) reflect what people actually do. Andreas’ paper lists a set of ‘knowledge maturing’ activities and I thought it would be interesting to map them to the 4C’s above. Throughout this table, I would probably be happier with the word ‘outputs (inherently digital) rather than digital resources, but I have retained the terms used in the original paper.

    Knowledge Maturing Activity Charting behaviour/comment
    Find relevant digital resources CONSUME: this is pretty straightforward – we see consume activities as forming the foundation of knowledge work – you must possess these skills to recognise useful knowledge and information.
    Embed information at individual or organisational level CONNECT: another essential activity is to be able to contextualise the knowledge and information you find. We see this as a connect behaviour. creating connections and new knowledge structures by combining existing and new knowledge and information is a key activity undertaken by knowledge workers.
    Keep up to date with organisation related knowledge CONSUME: again, a straightforward consume behaviour – within an organisational context, tools such as Outlook and SharePoint probably cover this well already. The challenge is – does this formal organisational information ‘play well’ with knowledge originating through less formal mechanisms and from an individual’s wider network (collective) suvch as the information below.
    Familiarise oneself with new information CONSUME: straightforward – through tools such as Google Reader. Again, the key is to integrate disprate sources of information.
    Reorganise information at individual or organisational level CONNECT: I think this is one of the critical skills that a knowledge worker needs to develop: accommodating new knowledge within your knowledge structures in such a way that it serves short term goals (achieving organisational objectives) without compromising longer term needs – making sure that the knowledge can be reused and repurposed.
    Reflect on and refine work practices or processes CONNECT/CREATE:In this list, this was the activity which I felt was least well accommodated by our 4C’s. I have always thought of ‘reflection’ as being an elaboration of existing knowledge, for example a note attached to a web site of interest – which is covered by our connect behaviour. On the other hand, I think that refining work processes would usually occur within the context of achieving work goals – and therefore I’d classify that behaviour as create. either way, these activities definitly fall within the 4C’s but perhaps need to be more explicitly acknowledged,
    Create and co-develop digital resources CREATE: again straightforward – creation of new knowledge – embedded in outputs or otherwise is the key activity of knowledge workers.
    Share and release digital resources CONTRIBUTE: Initially, we didn’t differentiate between create and contribute but we introduced the distinction to emphasise that contribution knowledge back to the collective is an important (though not always possible) action.
    Restrict access and protect digital resources CONTRIBUTE: … though it might be better expressed as Choosing not to Contribute! In our view, systems should be designed to make contribution as simple as possible. If an individual wishes to restrict access to their knowledge/resources outputs – then it must be a conscious decision.
    Find people with particular knowledge or expertise CONSUME: It is vital to remember that knowledge resides not only as publicly available digital resources, but also within individuals minds. So you can’t only rely on your feed reader to provide all the input into your knowledge stream.
    Communicate with people CONNECT: This is our archetypal connect behaviour – as people are the repositories of (past and future) knowledge.
    Assess verify and rate information CONNECT: Another really important set of actions – enriching the quality of knowledge structures depends on all individuals within the network supplying  (consciously or unconsciously) value information about those resources and connections.

    The exercise was probably a little simplistic, but it was useful in helping me think through the mapping of our 4 C’s. I tend to separate out ‘consume’ as an initial activity – though of course it is ongoing, then lump together connect and create as being the focus of knowledge work/knowledge production. Contribution then completes the circle – as knowledge contributed by you becomes knowledge consumed by others.

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    Author: Colin Milligan

    Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

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