Interview d'expert : Jean-Yves BARBIER, Ecole Polytechnique, FRANCE

Jean-Yves BARBIER    

What is your vision on Knowledge Management future ? What do you think the main trends are today and will be in the next years ?

The rise of Knowledge Management (KM) in the 90’s was, according to me, tightly connected with project management. Seen as a response to an accelerated competitive environment, project management started to change the way organizations use knowledge.
In the years 2000, Internet and networking tools, by creating a real collective mind, deeply changed the practice and speed of knowledge creation and management. From a hierarchical and analytical way of dealing with knowledge, we start moving to a more fuzzy and intuitive knowledge management pattern.
I think, in the next decade, two main trends will be essential :  instant everywhere access to  quite all explicit knowledge will shape a new scheme of interaction between humans ;  and  thanks to neurocognitive science research progress,  we will upgrade our understanding of the tacit dimension of knowledge and its unconscious part, seen as a core competency regarding creativity and innovation.

How organizations can use Knowledge Management to improve their competitiveness and optimize their businesses results? And what are the main expected benefits?

What we could call : “KM compass” in project management is  “to aim locking a degree of freedom only when having raised optimal  Knowledge level”, as put by Midler (1993)[i]. Project management and its core teams patterns focus more on multi-dimensional shared visions and ability to create a learning trajectory. Dassault System 3D conception software’s efficiency is based on this statement : to see the same things !

To leverage competitiveness i.e nowadays largely an ability to create competitive advantages through innovation, companies can thus turn to this spiraling model of product conception. Arising against classical, more sequential, profession based processes where the emphasis is put on field expertise, the spiraling model aims to speed up interactions as the best shortcuts to support innovation.
Another channel is to learn from creative industries their manner to manage creativity and talents. Paris (2011)[ii], for instance, focuses since many years on how to create organizational environments and disposals to foster business oriented creativity.

What are your recommendations to start an effective Knowledge Management project and its successful roll-out?

First, you have “to know what you know” and this is really a huge problem. That means creating a kind of datacenter automatically alimented with business datas, in which your teams can share information and knowledge.
But, as put by Cholle (2011)[iii], intuitive intelligence (80% of our cognitive process is done by our unconsciousness) is as important as rational and analytical approaches. So, your KM needs to care about the tacit dimension of knowledge, uneasy to catch, difficult to deal with, but critical when regarding performative interactions.

In your opinion, what are the major hurdle to overcome and the pitfalls to avoid?

One of the major hurdles to overcome is surprisingly just reaching a clear diagnosis about KM potential, as we generally make confusion about data, information and knowledge on the one hand, and on the other hand, underestimate the role of tacit knowledge. Then, as knowledge is power, the risk of sharing and its organizational impact in terms of management is always a concern. But the biggest risk is certainly to avoid the KM subject.
The best way to address KM stakes is may be to rely on external tools specialists, creating a partnership that has three advantages : 1) staying neutral regarding power distribution, 2) improving maturity of KM schemes and disposals, 3) having a clear vision of the “self-acting” dimensions of tools when introduced into organizations - and that’ s essential !
To improve our skills to tap into things we know but we don’t know we are knowing”, I’ve proposed a matrix to understand how to leverage tacit knowledge in business situations, by paying attention to the type of managerial mandate (Barbier,2005)[iv]. This model was applied for instance to French clusters (Barbier, 2009)[v].

Do you think there are cultural specificities on Knowledge Management maturity depending on your geographical location?

In France, land of Descartes, we are certainly overestimating explicit knowledge. We could certainly learn a lot from oriental civilizations and even from so called “ancient primitive societies”.

[i] Midler C. (1993), L’Auto qui n’existait pas, management des projets et transformation de l’entreprise, Dunod, Paris

[ii] Paris T. (2010), Manager la créativité. Innover en s'inspirant de Pixar, Ducasse, les Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Hermès...

[iii]Cholle F. (2011), The intuitive compass : why the best decisions balance reason and instinct, Wiley.

[iv]Barbier J.-Y. (2005), Breaking the tacit dimension : the double helix of knowledge creation, Passion for knowning Colloquium, Trento, Italy.

[v] Barbier J.-Y. (2009),  « Comment modéliser la dynamique collaborative des pôles de compétitivité pour orienter les politiques publiques : une approche par la connaissance tacite », XVIIIe Conférence Internationale de Management Stratégique, Grenoble, 3-5 juin.

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