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Slouching toward KM

Why do corporate lawyers recoil when urged to contribute to knowledge management systems (See my post of June 15, 2006 on obstacles to knowledge contribution.)? At least 11 reasons explain the reluctance, and I have listed them roughly in decreasing order of importance.

Time. To put anything into a knowledge system, or to do anything to support it, takes time. Time is the inside lawyer’s most jealously guarded resource.

Power. If the contributor is the only one who knows how the knowledge, such as how to interpret the export/import rules, why share it and weaken job security?

Criticism. When you contribute something, it makes you seem prideful and opens you to criticism

Implicit. Many lawyers don’t stop to consider how they think, or what they processed to reach a conclusion. It’s hard to recapture the insight on the wing.

Discipline. You have to organize and shape your thoughts, which is difficult – the same problem that afflicts many people when they write.

Solecism. The contributor has already learned, who knows when another lawyer will need to draw on that learning, and the next lawyer may not even know what he doesn’t know.

Context. Every contribution of knowledge into a system has context. To fairly and usefully locate the knowledge in terms of all the circumstances around it proves to be difficult.

Risk. Others may misuse the contribution. This worry is at the core of resistance to a client self-serve model.

Flow. In the midst of turbulent activity, it’s hard to pick out the nuggets of knowledge that will help someone later.

Bureaucracy. Sometimes the system requires a gate keeper to authorize new entries. The person may throw up more work, paperwork, persuasion, or delay.

Retrieval. It is hard to find the needle with our search tools (See my post of July 21, 2005 on software that helps collect knowledge.). If a potential contributor hasn’t found the system to be useful, why would they assume a different, positive result for others?