Various theories have been put forward to show that time is a real phenomenon, as opposed to a construction of human thinking to help us make greater sense of the world and our place in it.
One of these is the 'entropic theory of time', which I shall simplify, if only to spare my blushes and retain your attention.
Entropy means 'disorder'. Most things in our world, free from outside interference, will become disordered, thereby showing greater entropy. It is this direction, from order to disorder, that shows the passage (and direction) of time. Think of the untended, increasingly weedy garden, the neglected, muddy car or indeed any room in the house recently visited by small children....
So far, so what?
Much of human existence has required our 'interference' in things, to create and sustain the things that enable us to live the lives we enjoy today. The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the transport we take have all been developed through our deliberately choosing to do things and to continue doing those things. Some discoveries have been accidental (e.g. some vaccines, hot air balloons, Post-it notes etc.) but our exploitation of them has only been possible through our continued, deliberate efforts.
As it is with human history, so it is with knowledge management (KM).
Without KM, organisations remain in states of entropy, to greater or lesser degrees:
- New ideas don't take hold and spread without the energy with which (or the channels along which) to move them - which means innovations remain isolated;
- Lessons don't get identified and DEFINITELY don't get learned, without people making the necessary effort - which means the same mistakes get made, over and over again;
- Best practices don't get developed, let alone embedded, without a system of creation, review and update - which means performance is inconsistent and the quality varied;
- Knowledge doesn't stick around when people leave without a system of retention and transfer - which means those left behind have to start from scratch, all over again.
Without a deliberate KM approach, far too many organisations resemble the unkempt garden, the dirty car or the sofa with crayon scrawled all over it: mistakes are repeated, over and over again; business continues to be lost from failed bids; time is wasted tracking down the guy that did this thing before.
So, KM is not 'natural' and will not happen by itself. It requires a deliberate decision from senior management to investigate, design, test and implement a KM approach.
We don't have inviting gardens by accident; we don't have clean cars by accident and we don't have tidy houses by accident (nor, for that matter, presentable children) - so why on earth would we expect our knowledge to be managed by accident?