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Grass roots knowledge management, not the forest and below even the trees

Most knowledge-management initiatives imposed from the top down fail to take hold. The big picture forest wilts. Better to plant some trees: tools, initial encourage, and ongoing recognition, and then let lawyers below them devise their own ways to circulate what they learn and value. A description in Consulting, Nov./Dec. 2008 at 51, of how Capgemini pulled this off pushed me to write. That huge consulting firm launched a post-and-tag system without announcement or training. Its popularity spread by word of mouth and “people found out how to use it within the context of what they needed to do.” Excellent grass roots!

For example, a law department might invest in low-cost wiki software, such as Knol by Google. Those lawyers who have an interest in compiling and annotating material and commenting could take advantage of it. Second, each lawyer could be encouraged to circulate each quarter one item of broader interest to those who would find it useful (See my post of Dec. 21, 2008: try a practice and share the results *7.).

Third, the law department might fund a conference call every six weeks for communities of practice – lawyer who share a common interest. One outcome from the conference calls might be collections of material that would be useful for the practitioners. Fourth, arrange time for monthly lunch-and-learns and subsidize dessert. Fifth, review the use of shared drives and create a knowledge-sharing portion.