Arun Venkataraman with whom I have lenghty conversations about doing KM the right way suggested yesterday that a “reuse culture” may inhibit learning and innovation. I have been trying to see what people do after they find a knowledge asset(This could be a document, a video, a piece of code etc.,) in the best practices repository. They end up doing one of the following:
1. They see that the knowledge asset solves the problem out of the box. There is no difference in the context in which the knowledge asset was judged to a best practice and the current context. This is kind of classic reuse.
2. They see that the knowledge asset does not seem solve the current problem out of the box. They may find that the context is different. They call/IM/email the author and go into a Q & A mode trying to understand the original context and to see how the knowledge asset can be used in the current context.
3. They see that the knowledge asset does not seem solve the current problem out of the box. They may find that the context is different. They decide to discuss this with someone in the team to see if this can be customized in some way to suit their requirements. At times the best practice per se might not help but may lead to other ideas that solve the problem at hand.
Does learning take place in the above scenarios? I believe it does. Inevitably all of the above scenarios involve some form of learning listed below.( From Dave Pollard’s blog)
- Apprenticeship (“Watch me, and then you try it”)
- Being told (listening, reading)
- Classical conditioning (associative learning — “Aha, this always seems to correlate with this”)
- Coaching (“Next time try this”)
- Concept learning (learning to learn, putting two and two together — “Aha, I know what might work”)
- Emulation (“I see what he’s doing, but I think I know a better way to achieve the same end”)
- Imitation (“I can do that — watch”)
- Latent learning (“Well, that’s interesting, but it’s not immediately useful”)
- Local enhancement (“I see. That must be the right thing to do”)
- Model/rival learning (“The teacher is showing the other student how to do that. I get it. And I could do it better”)
- Observational enhancement (“I see. I know what I could do with that”)
- Operant conditioning (reward learning — “Give me another doughnut and I’ll do it again”)
- Question & answer (interviewing)
- Role modeling (“Wow, that’s good. Can I try now?”)
- Serendipitous learning (“Oops — hey, that’s interesting, we can use that”)
- Social facilitation (“Hey, that’s fun — you mean it’s also useful?”)
- Stimulus enhancement (“That got my attention, maybe I’ll try it sometime”)
- Trial and error
I guess reusing(or trying to reuse) a knowledge asset opens new avenues of learning rather than inhibiting it, provided one doesn’t blindly follow the suggested path.