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Knowledge Management: The Importance of Pen and Paper

Tim Milner will be speaking at our 'Innovate To Save' event on the 17th December. To view the agenda and sign up, please visit our Eventbrite page. He has kindly written a blog post about his view of Knowledge Management...

This may well be the most luddite post on Kent's innovation pages, but I would like to highlight the importance of a piece of paper.

Networks have always been an important part of working life, whether you're a milkman or the Prime Minister - our netorks are essentially the map of our working life so far: our contacts, our projects, events we've attended...

These networks have arguably become even more important now, where a lot of the work we are all doing is with people we've never even met, nor are likely to ever meet. Whether it's someone you only know online, or someone you see once a month over a fuzzy conferencing screen, or hear over the phone - these are important contacts, and the future of a lot of the work you will do in your life.

My work as a member of the IDeA KM Strategy team involves helping teams join up and communicate better with each other; retain and disseminate their knowledge; and work to understand and realise the potential of networking. That includes finding ways that staff can solve problems online. The results of this have been the development of the communities of practice platform, and an online Peer Assist tool, as well as the use of applications such as Yammer. It is important to realise that all of this work is intrinsically and unavoidably linked to having an awareness of the myriad relationships we are all involved in. And the only way to keep up with these is to start work immediately on creating a relationship map!

Relationship mapping provides an overview of the relationships a knowledge holder (you) has with key contacts in the organisation. It's a perfectly simple thing to start, and the more you tend to it on a contact-by-contact basis, the less time it takes to maintain. Like an oak tree growing out of an acorn (main tip is: make sure that piece of paper is big!), it starts with your name in the centre, and branches out from there - the key comes in the way you define these relationships: direction of contact, frequency of contact, difficult relationships, internal and external, and, potentially most revealing of all, where the links lie between different contacts - that's not how you relate to contact A and B, but how contact A relates to contact B. This process feeds into many of our different knowledge management tools, including playing an essential role in our knowledge retention tool.

There are many ways to keep track of these relationships - lots of fancy software and complicated mapping techniques, and, of course, online social networks help do this for you - but where your relationships are spread across different networks - online and offline - I favour simply picking up a pen and a piece of paper. An old fashioned, but extremely fruitful and accessible way to track your contacts and projects across your working life.

- A special thank you to Tim Milner, Knowledge Manager of the IDeA Knowledge Team.

Picture: A relationship map, similar to a spider diagram, showing how one person is connected to another on a large sheet of paper.

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