Kaplan & His Working Knowledge

By Mimi Dionne posted 12-07-2010 23:48



Bill Kaplan. (2010). Losing Your Minds: Capturing, Retaining, and Leveraging Organizational Knowledge. London: Ark Group.

Mr. Kaplan’s new book, Losing Your Minds: Capturing, Retaining, and Leveraging Organizational Knowledge is not peppered with author-created jargon; it’s straightforward and immediately useful.

The book is divided into three parts.

Part One: Are you losing your minds? The challenges of knowledge loss

                Chapter One outlines organizational challenges to knowledge management best practices and defines agility. Chapter Two introduces Mr. Kaplan’s “V” formation of tacit and explicit knowledge and tackles a knowledge management definition.  Chapter Three hurdles concept to strategy to implementing practice.  Chapter Four underscores the need for audits and assessments.  Chapter Five discusses an organization’s strategic plan.  Chapter Six focuses on implementation. 

Part Two: Driving value from knowledge: The practical knowledge management guide

                Part Two is divided into sections as opposed to chapters.  Section One provides templates for agenda and objectives for a conversation with a potential C-level partner.  He breaks down an organization’s knowledge management project potential into five categories: business impact, business advocacy, transferability and reach, feasibility, and relationship to strategic objectives.  Section Two recalls the FAST learning processes outlined in Part One.  Sections Three through Five is about learning before doing, learning while doing, and learning after doing.  Section Six addresses lessons learned and Section Seven offers ideas on Communities of Practice. 

Part Three: Case studies

                Part Three highlights two case studies: knowledge sharing and collaboration at MTR and knowledge and expertise transfer at Airbus. 

Now, a quick word on content.

                Against the context of where I stand within my organization, I highlighted several passages that I deem important.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; I envision many readers borrowing content as baseline research for their presentations.  The agendas are particularly nice tools for middle managers.  Indeed, the book seems a perfect fit for mid-levels. These folks aren’t the decision-makers, unless they work for a bottom-up organization. Mr. Kaplan knows this; he references top-down knowledge management paths as well.   Admittedly, my exposure to knowledge management is more limited than other information science disciplines, but the book seems imbalanced.  On the one hand, it’s written as if Mr. Kaplan couldn’t fit all of his wonderful content derived from his company WorkingKnowledgeCSP into the text.  On the other hand, when I consider his diverse experience, this imbalance makes sense—for him, this is an extremely personal book. I would find it difficult to download my brain into 120 pages.  Many famous writers are credited with the saying, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”  It’s a lesson we can all use (especially me).  I think it’s a testimony to Mr. Kaplan’s generosity that he would share so much of his lessons learned with his readers—a mark of a gentleman, a scholar, and a teacher—but at times the book feels like a pamphlet for Working CapitalCSP services.  As a reader and a small business owner, I cannot begrudge him the right to make it so, but I encourage Mr. Kaplan to consider this in the next book carefully, which I also hope to read because what I’ve seen so far has been quite wonderful and useful.  I’ll willingly read anything he writes and I know I’ll learn a lot—the best compliment I can give.

                My recommendation?

                I recommend this book and would love to see it do well.  When I flip through it, I count the number of my notes in the margins and multi-colored passages. I annotated every chapter with reference points for future use. I will be delighted when Mr. Kaplan’s book invigorates what is now considered a neglected area of corporate study. A lifetime devoted to this discipline should be rewarded and I think it will be a success.     

                Find the book here.

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