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Knowledge management: from publishing to brokering

A short piece by David Gilmour in the Harvard Business Review (Oct. 2003 at pgs. 16-17) makes the case for abandoning the “publish” model for KM – collect information from people and broadcast it – in favor of collaborative knowledge sharing based on “brokering.” With brokering, a law department needs to “connect people who should be connected” (and possibly reaching the wider circle of clients and law firms).

Gilmour’s company, Tacit Knowledge Systems, has created software that sifts through e-mail, network folders, intranet postings, matter management systems, and other data sources to identify common information threads. “Our systems alert people about their shared interests without identifying [the people who have the knowledge]… That gives knowledge holders the opportunity to contact seekers directly or to confidentially decline contact.” The software also fields questions.

Since it is so difficult to persuade in-house counsel to contribute to the common good of a KM repository, such an oblique, technology-based work around makes sense. If two lawyers not in a reporting relationship separately write about asbestos and temporary restraining orders, the software can let them know, confidentially, that someone else has some knowledge that might be worth sharing. (See my post of today on methods of encouraging KM.)