by Nadia Cameron

Share knowledge through conversation, don’t control it: REA Group’s Nigel Dalton

Jul 23, 20133 mins
Big DataBusiness Intelligence

CIOs must invest in technologies and behaviours that capture, share and encourage conversation if they’re to address the modern knowledge management issues experienced in their organisations, the CIO of REA Group claims.

Speaking at the CIO Summit in Sydney today, Nigel Dalton told attendees that the explosion of digital data has shifted the focus away from locking down static information, a practice well developed historically with books and libraries, to recognising knowledge as a fluid construct.

“Media was a way of ordering knowledge that is useful, but in that lies the lack of utility,” he said.

While knowledge management technologies created in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Lotus Notes and Filenet, tried to cope by centralising and harnessing information within a well-structured repository, what was important today was to mimic human behaviour and conversation.

“Nothing you share on your intranet will be worth a penny in three years’ time,” Dalton said in his presentation, ‘The Futility of Knowledge Management’. “You must focus on human behaviour, trust people to communicate, and get the hell out of Lotus Notes and Filenet management systems.”

Dalton used an analogy of how cows will strike their own path through a field towards the water trough, and the uselessness of building concrete paths for them, as a way of illustrating the pointlessness of trying to define specific channels for information to pass through.

“Every path you connected in IT and your business process re-engineering is now a redundant piece of concrete,” he claimed. “Today, it’s about recording the conversation and content. You need low-cost, easily managed and shared conversation stores.”

At REA Group, an online real estate advertising company, knowledge sharing is achieved through face-to-face, stand-up meetings and constant communication, which give the organisation the resilience and speed to keep up with the digital market, Dalton said.

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By capturing the conversation and context, CIOs can also gather the ‘why’, which is a far greater driver of productivity, Dalton said. “People make better decisions and run the company better,” he said. “The conversation around decisions is a massive productivity boost.”

According to Dalton, good technology today is just one node in the ‘Internet of Things’, or the interconnected knowledge network.

“We are not stopping the information explosion, we’re using technology insight to build better filters. Information flows to all edges of the intranet, and you can’t control that,” he added.