The Bright Future of Knowledge Management

Knowledge management has come so far over the past three decades, but what might it look like in the next thirty years? 

Let’s take a look.

The Future of Technology

As we saw in this blog post, technology has already transformed the knowledge management space. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, smart technology, and robots will become further embedded in businesses and their knowledge management frameworks. Believe it or not, smart tech will get even smarter! It’s likely that much of the knowledge management technology of the future hasn’t even been invented yet.

The pandemic dramatically sped up the world’s technological push, where millions upon millions of businesses went virtual overnight. It’s now safe to say that virtual working is here to stay. 

This means knowledge sharing in organizations will go even more global, with partnerships and mutual idea exchanging taking place across continents, cultures, and industries. What an exciting time for knowledge management!

However, as much as the world has embraced virtual working over the past year and a half, many would agree that no Zoom meeting or phone call will ever 100% replace face-to-face interaction. A complete digitization of the workplace in the future runs the risk of impacting social skills and lessening human connection which are important for both team wellbeing and sharing knowledge in the workplace.

Because of these concerns, the future of working will most likely be hybrid. This mixture of remote work and in-person co-working gives maximum flexibility to suit individual employees’ preferences and circumstances. This will provide distinct challenges for knowledge management leaders, who will need to consider where to prioritize their budgets and efforts: between advanced technology or more human and behavioral aspects of knowledge management. 

The Future of Leadership

Since the industrial era, the workplace has more or less maintained a command-and-control type leadership style. This top-down structure provides employees with very little autonomy or decision-making power in the company. Leadership has been mainly focused on maximizing productivity and efficiency and less on employee satisfaction and independence.

This hierarchical model worked well in a more stable world, but with how fast-paced and unpredictable the world is becoming, this type of leadership is no longer fit for purpose. The recent jobs crisis in the U.S. indicates that leaders of today and the future will have to change course if they want to attract and retain their teams, and leadership makes up a large part of that.

The average company is generating and circulating so much knowledge and information every day. Industries and trends are changing so quickly that a small group at the top having total reign and control over every aspect of the company is no longer feasible. This means that the future of work will see greater levels of responsibility and trust being put into teams. Employees will have greater autonomy and decision-making power over their tasks, schedules, and ways of working. 

Empowering teams to take greater ownership over their tasks and knowledge will generally develop better knowledge management outcomes as it fosters independence and organizational culture of trust. This leads to happier, more engaged people who are eager to share their knowledge with others.

What’s more, knowledge management tools and software are democratizing the workplace and closing the previously vast gap between top management and employees. This will continue and deepen in the future. 

Radical Knowledge Management

The world is set to become even more uncertain, complex, and fast-paced than today. While technology is and will be an incredible tool to combat some of these complex challenges, the future of knowledge management will not be down to tech alone. 

This idea is the basis for an emerging type of knowledge management called radical knowledge management (RKM). Stephanie Barnes, a researcher who recently wrote a paper on the topic in Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, defines RKM as:

KM (people + processes + technology) x creativity = RKM

Barnes believes that the main priority for knowledge management should be on the areas of a company that technology can’t replace: creativity and innovation. Yet, these aspects in the workplace often get restricted and stifled in the face of an obsessive focus on efficiency and productivity. 

More creativity leads to more employee development and growth in their careers and lives. It also allows for more critical independent thinking, better emotional intelligence, an out-of-the-box way around obstacles, and more successful collaboration. All of these attributes are essential for knowledge management and knowledge sharing in organizations.

Barnes predicts that the future of successful RKM will be continuous upskilling, reskilling, and learning. Because of this, there will be more of a focus placed on tacit knowledge rather than explicit. With the world’s current pace, it’s becoming harder and harder to codify knowledge and keep it from going out of date rapidly. Therefore, learning & development programs will become one of the most valuable aspects of knowledge management, which will allow teams to gain and upgrade their organizational knowledge, engaging in a constant process of learning and unlearning.

The Next Wave of Knowledge Management 

We’re entering the next stage of knowledge management, where the perfect blend of technology, processes, people, and their capacity for creativity and innovation is set to become the ultimate knowledge management formula. So, do you have a knowledge management system that’s fit for this bright future? Lessonly Knowledge has you covered. 

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