Visible knowledge

I had a conversation earlier this week about how those of us who are fortunate enough to be knowledge workers are now operating in the remote working/learning world created by the global pandemic.

The conversation drifted off to point out some bright spots. Some organizations are giving their people space to be human and may be, for the moment, listening more intently.

The question arose as to whether we will just snap back to “normal” at some point and lose the light from these bright spots.  What if we didn’t? What if we could sustain something of value from this experience? What would that be?

I’ve been thinking about that.

Let me step back a bit and share where these next bits are coming from.

I’ve struggled for a long time to try to define what it is that sets me off about the disciplinary lines that mark the borders of learning and knowledge management.

In part it is how these borders create distinctive operational functions which take on a life of their own, with their own language and technologies and struggles for power. Power is resources – people, budget, organizational mindshare. And the struggles over resources necessitate a kind of bizarre battle fought on either fantasy marketplace logic (my make-believe ROI is better than your make-believe ROI) or on some equally fantastic moral ground (my solution makes people “better” than your solution does).

I struggle because this is such a winner-less battle. It misses the entire point.

The point is aspiration. We need to aspire to some outcome that erases the disciplinary borders.

I am beginning to think of the aspiration as visible knowledge.

Visible starts with “I share my knowledge out loud, in visible form.” Knowledge creation is a process that relies first on collaborative inquiry and reflection – a social, visible learning process that benefits deeply from an engaged community.

Knowledge is also only valuable when it is in action, and action implies visibility. I am doing something, making something, solving something because of what I know and that knowledge is visible and inseparable from my practice.

Finally, visible also means not invisible, hidden in the actions and experiences and stories of the marginalized voices of our organizations. Visible knowledge should be a call to bring out the voices of the entire community, as co-learners and co-knowledge-creators. To make visible all the ways of knowing we can possibly make visible.

Visible as “out-loud” and visible as “in-action” are wicked challenges. But it’s the last one – visible as not invisible – that I think I really want to carry forward from what I am experiencing at the moment. Sustaining the practices that we develop now, to bring more voices into real conversation, inquiry, learning and creating ways of knowing.

2 thoughts on “Visible knowledge

  1. I love this Jeff. The power of knowledge is in how it can be shared to springboard into something more innovative and more powerful. Unfortunately, some still view the power of holding knowledge – which, in this day and age, won’t get you beyond your own make-believe ROI, and certainly won’t help one’s company in this ever changing world. Well written! thank you.

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    1. Thanks Kathleen! Really appreciate this. FYI – thinking of starting a site (online journal of sorts) for longer form posts from multiple authors, offering critical new views of knowledge sharing and management. Working title of that online journal would be “visible knowledge.” What do you think?


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