KM: Like Riding a Bike?

A Guest Blog Post by:  Merel van Dijke, MSc. student in Knowledge and Information Systems Management at Southampton University, UK.


One day it all becomes clear: You want to ride a bike. You have never ridden on a bike before, but everyone is doing it, so you want to do it too. You go to the shop and buy the best bike your money can buy. With the bike next to you everything is set. D-Day. The Day of Days. The Day YOU are going to ride a bike. You get on, place your bottom at the saddle, squeeze the handlebars tight, take a deep breath and you go!  And fall.

You fall, and quite badly I must add. One of those falls of which you think:  "That hurt."  So… Why did you fall? Whose fault was it? Was it the bike? Could be. The manufacturer might have made a mistake, causing the bike not to function properly. But, since your friends are able to ride on your bike, and the bike was brand new and properly tested, that’s probably not it. Let’s face it. It was not the bike. It was you. You: The one that didn’t know how to ride a bike.

Maybe you are just not able to ride a bike at all. Maybe you are morbidly obese that makes you just incapable (nothing mean intended). Maybe riding a bike is just not your thing. And that’s okay.

Last week in class, our lecturer mentioned that “Knowledge Management Systems (KMSs) have failed to fulfill their promises.”  At home, typing Knowledge Management Failure into Google gave me 29,700,000 results. I found numerous articles online about failing knowledge management initiatives, for countless reasons.

And yes. This annoys me.

It might be a very Dutch way of seeing it, but knowledge management is like riding a bike. Some people ride, and some people don’t. If you have a company with an organization culture that is closed, secretive and not focused on teams, knowledge management might just not be for you. If your employees are not willing to share their knowledge, all KM attempts will be fruitless. In the end, the system is just a tool to enhance the knowledge sharing in an organization. Enhance, not create.

For a KM system to work, it has to be implemented in a company with the right mindset and values. If this is not present yet, KM systems are not your first step to take. An attempt to change your culture is.

If you really want to ride that bike, you might want to lose some weight first. Or just look for other ways of transportation.


Many thanks to Merel van Dijke for contributing this short but thoughtful piece.  For more of Merel's fresh perspective, follow her blog at:  merelace.wordpress.com