by B. Leach | April 15, 2015 | 7 Min Read

Don’t Invest in a Knowledge Management System


Companies are all too familiar with the gut-wrenching costs of lost knowledge: expensive production delays, lost sales revenue, catastrophic accidents and PR nightmares. Even NASA has cited lost knowledge as one of the reasons it wouldn’t be able to send another person to the moon any time soon. The problem isn’t that businesses are failing to take steps to protect, capture, and share knowledge; they’re investing billions of dollars in knowledge management tools. The problem is that companies aren’t investing in the right tools. It’s time to confront the pitfalls of traditional knowledge management systems and consider a more effective way to retain knowledge: the social learning management system.

How Knowledge Management Systems Fall Short

Though the tools are well intentioned, knowledge management systems come with pitfalls. In an article for the Society of Human Resource Management, Pamela Babcock covers three common pain points: They contribute to information overload. Systems get inundated with information and become hard to navigate, leaving users “buried with data” and “overwhelmed” and no clear ways to cope. They’re a productivity killer. Knowledge management systems often create more work instead of streamlining it. As knowledge management and eLearning consultant Marc Rosenberg points out in Babcock’s article, If your program asks employees to use four search engines, three document-management systems, and six collaboration tools on multiple types of computer systems, you’re dead.” They don’t remove barriers to information sharing. Sharing your ideas can leave you feeling scared, vulnerable, and intimidated. Knowledge management systems make it easy to have a resource where information is captured, stored, and retrieved. But overcoming human fears and actually motivating people to share information? Many knowledge management systems are lacking in this arena.

How a Social LMS Helps You Win at Knowledge Management

Rather than invest in a separate tool, gain efficiency—and make knowledge management painless—by using a social learning management system. A social LMS is ideal because good knowledge management practices are coded into its DNA. It organizes information smartly. A social LMS bakes in measures like team-based access/filters for content that help prevent information overload. Different groups of people get a personalized experience where they only see the resources, forums, and other information that’s most relevant to them. It makes it easy to gauge content quality and find helpful resources fast. Not only does a social learning management system better organize information, it also makes it easier to find and use the best tips and resources. For example, in our LMS Spoke, people can upvote the content they find most helpful. These votes are tracked and displayed prominently, giving users an at-a-glance reference that helps them navigate content more efficiently. It helps people work more efficiently. A social LMS removes the extra layers of noise and process that get in the way of employee productivity. Instead of bouncing between email, various Sharepoint sites, Chatter, a knowledge management system, and other applications, team members have one place where they can store, share, and find important information. It motivates people to share knowledge. Through built-in gamification features, social learning management systems recognize and reward people for sharing their expertise. They can earn special points and unlock badges and rankings that help build their sense of confidence and also convey credibility and expert status to peers. The opportunity to be known as a thought leader motivates people to share information, not withhold it. Case in point: a Fortune 500 company using Spoke has seen double-digit improvement in team performance. Part of their success is due to an active community of users who freely share and discuss their experiences and lessons learned with each other. By encouraging and rewarding crowd-sourced expertise, knowledge sharing’s become second nature, and people are referencing, applying, and, ultimately, growing as a result of that communal knowledge. So, is a knowledge management system the best tool for knowledge management? Though their name suggests yes, the reality is no. Traditional knowledge management systems can come with unintended consequences like information overload and lowered productivity. They also do little to motivate people to share information. But with a social learning management system, information is easy and fast to find, and people want to share their expertise for the common good.

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