March 10, 2009

Reflections of a Knowledge Manager - YEAR 6

So, I'm just a few days away from the six-year anniversary of my first post-university KM gig (which, coincidentally, is only a couple of days before my b-day) and I had a nice little surprise while I was googling position descriptions for "knowledge manager".

Guess whose blog is the #1 search result?

Considering how little time I've invested in search engine optimization and how slack I feel about my blogging habits, I'm surprised, but also very pleased.

Anywho, I have a birthday tradition of reflecting on past goals and achievements as a way to gain perspective on getting older and helping me to prioritize the things that really matter in my life so that I can do a better job of reaching out towards all of those unfulfilled dreams that tend to get pushed aside in the daily grind of work, bills, tennis, relationship drama, and stressing over work, bills, tennis (yes, even the One True Religion can sometimes involve stress), and relationship drama. So, this year, as I near the celebration of my KM anniversary, I think it's only fitting that I share my reflections on what I've come to learn during my career on my appropriately titled blog.

When I began my KM journey as a college sophomore (following the realization that I would probably never graduate with a degree in Chemistry and study perfumery in Paris) I was confident that my (phenomenally brilliant, IMHO, lol) strategy skills, my butterfly wings (socially speaking), and my penchant for big ideas (I'd have "people" to take care of the details) were all that I needed to be successful. However, as I transitioned from student to young professional it became apparent that there was still much I had to learn about business. I came to the conclusion - very quickly - that one of the primary reasons that organizations experience such tremendous difficulty with KM is that it (1) requires them to acknowledge how much they participate in the culture of fear and greed that permeates too many organizations (behaviors that have the effect of a cold shower on KM, if you catch my meaning) and (2)demands that they let go of these behaviors, no matter how familiar and comfortable they may be, in order to have a shot in hell of achieving the (much desired) full benefit of KM. It's that whole "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" idea.

For those of you who've read my earlier posts (and even those who haven't, because you can't truly do this work and not know where the hell I'm coming from), you know that one of my major pain points is having to deal with being the oft-shot at messenger.

Just a few weeks ago I was totally spanked (verbally, of course, this ain't that type of blog) by a colleague for openly and "irresponsibly" asserting in front of other KM colleagues (and some high ranking muckety-mucks) that *gasp*, *shock*, *awe* - we should vet (review and assess) requests coming into the KM function rather than immediately agreeing to execute and deliver. For my part, I smiled it off and maintained my stance, well aware that the real issue at play is that too many people are more afraid of challenging the status quo (even when it benefits the organization) than they are of doing their jobs well.

(Sidenote: Right now I can't help but think about well-raised, intelligent students who act a fool to look "cool" and maintain mediocre or poor grades so as not to demonstrate their intelligence to peers; adults see this behavior as being ridiculously stupid, but how many adult workers refuse to pursue excellence in their workplace and/or careers for the same or similar reasons? Guess what, it's still ridiculously stupid!)

While I have learned how to "play the game" and navigate very sketchy and treacherous waters, I still resent having to do so. One, because most of the people that I've worked with over the years are fully aware of the counter-productivity of these behaviors and, two, because I'd prefer to demonstrate how much more effective KM strategies can be without all of the BS.

Sighhhh, this is supposed to be a reflection, not a bitch session.

It was a strange combination of ego (building a name for myself by helping to define what I initially - and ignorantly - perceived as a fledgling field) and synchronicity (all of the random events that led to me happening across an interestingly titled job description on at midnight one Friday) that brought me to KM and sometimes - more than I care to admit - I get frustrated with the direction of my career and the sense of non-accomplishment; I jealously read all of the interesting and provocative KM discourse taking place and get pissy about doing mundane (albeit well-paying) grunt work that isn't contributing towards any visionary or innovative KM breakthroughs; I imagine what more I could be doing to achieve some sort of "status" and recognition in KM and then I laugh because I suddenly remember that the other reason I decided to pursue a career in this field is that (unlike writing or cooking) I knew I could walk away from KM, easy-breezy, if it ever got "old" and that if money were not an issue I'd be taking tennis lessons for hours at a time every day when I wasn't farming herbs, making cheese, and trying to get cacao beans to grow in the North Georgia mountains.

And just like that I regain a bit of perspective and I'm able to see that even if I've yet to be tapped to write a monthly column on knowledge management for Fast Company or published a bestselling and critically praised book on KM (which improves KM understanding just by holding it in your hands) I'm not doing too bad.

For starters, I get paid to do work that I'm passionate about. From the time I left grad school until now I've been blessed and fortunate to find one KM job after the other and with each role my understanding has grown and my KM "toolbelt" has expanded. I've had the opportunity to spread my message about the relevance and significance KM and introduce it to people who continue on their own KM journey even in my absence and break it down for people who met me with negativity, resistance, and misinformation. Most importantly, despite the occasional moments of doubt and uncertainty, I'm daily reminded that my insights and intuition about KM have not led me astray and have actually opened up doors (personal and professional relationships, jobs, and other opportunities), that would have, otherwise, remained closed.

Of course, I'm still eager to "make a name for myself", but there will be time for that. After all, if you're good at what you do, people will find you.

And I do have that #1 Google search ranking working for me too, lol.

So, I'm looking forward to the next year and seeing what develops. In the meantime, my goals are just to...
Stay real.
Stay open.
Stay focused.
Stay inspired.
Stay confident.
Stay passionate.


Mario said...

Truly inspiring. Happy Sixth!
Keepin' it real...

Christian Young said...

Thanks Mario!!

Anonymous said...

I am looking for a seasoned KM to move to Switzerland. You can contact me at 800-973-4793 x207

Blogger said...

I make $20 for each 20 minute survey!

Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying me for. They need to know what their average customer needs and wants. So these companies pay millions of dollars every month to the average person. In return, the average person, like myself, fills out surveys and gives them their opinion.