I was challenged by a reader of a previous blog post to explicitly define what the merger of ISO, KM, and L&D looks like when implemented within the enterprise. These three industries have been defined and sold as separate industries for so long that most practitioners willfully ignore the others in favor of their preferred industry. As a technologist seeking common ground across these industries, my focus has been on how our software development efforts can best serve all these industries. The overlapping similarities of these industries makes this fairly easy.
First, each of these industries have a deep history. ISO (International Organization for Standardization), was founded in 1947 after WWII. The intent of the 26 founding country members of the organization was to standardize the manufacturing of parts, equipment and machinery as a means of coordinating the rebuilding of participating countries after the war. Since its founding, over 19,000 standards have been defined by the ISO and their current offering is being deployed by as many as 162 countries. As technology advanced, ISO standards were redefined to keep pace with the technical progress gained across the world. ISO 9001, a key standard, defines a Quality Management System designed to establish and manage high fidelity delivery of an organization’s products and services. The ISO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Each country standards Boards operate under the ISO title, or through affiliate organizations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) in the U.S.
The KM (Knowledge Management) industry emerged in the 1980s but flourished in the U.S. in the 1990’s as the then, big 5 accounting firms, started a cost cutting effort called “down-sizing.” Those companies that down-sized quickly learned that firing people meant that they took their vital organizational knowledge with them when they left. The financial impact on companies was substantial. Out of this trend, a new breed of Knowledge Management consultant emerged who helped companies to “right-size,” and to establish operational systems that tracked and managed the flow of knowledge through the enterprise.
KM people by nature are conceptual people who think in terms of organizational systems, but many fall short on understanding the technical component of the systems equation. Throughout KM history, most KM practitioners considered knowledge to be information (who, what, when, where, and how-much data), and books, manuals and documents (information). In their minds, the purpose of data systems was to model best KM practices and store subject matter expert contact information, among other content. In the early 2000s, XML and semantic standard technologies emerged which were designed to help disambiguate documents and other media, and to represent and understand the meaning of data and information. Many of these systems are used today for “enterprise search.” KM partitioners are now thinking deeper, forcing them to be more active in the selection of the technologies that support their systems approach. Their concerns are now also about the underlying intelligence of operational structures, processes, functions, and analytics. This includes related L&D requirements.
The L&D (Learning and Development) industry, also referred to as T&D (Training and Development), has been in business in one form or another since the beginning of human evolution. The essential effort of passing lessons-learned knowledge down from one generation to the next speaks for itself, since our societies would not exist in their current states without it. eLearning is a component of the L&D industry. In the 1970’s the earliest forms of eLearning began to emerge. California universities such as UC Irvine, Stanford, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and others experimented with computer dialogue systems that were designed to teach students through interactive dialogues. The National Science Foundation cited Dr. Richard L. Ballard for the first application of artificial intelligence to conceptual learning (Expert Systems in Business), UC Irvine 1975. I worked with Ballard or six years. Our IQxCloud knowledge ecosystem technology is based on his knowledge science principles.
Business is complex. It takes a diverse group of talent to make them run. The larger the company, the more people are required to deliver the products and services of an organization. Medium and small companies are more lean and mean and need to get more out of the talent they can afford. In all cases, however, the Board of Directors very often have to make decisions about issues where there are no right answers, only decision options. It gets down to the complexity problem. Here is an example of what complexity looks like:
Decision options are based on research related to historical and current market trends, and on the strategy required to effectively execute on the goals and objectives through the company’s organization.
This is where ISO, KM and L&D merge. Large companies most often have highly engineered organizational structures in place because those systems were developed organically as the company grew. The Fortune Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list demonstrates this point well. The key characteristics of these esteemed companies is strong leadership, a strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure, clear goals and objectives, accountability for assigned tasks, open office communication, strong convictions about their products and services, and according to Fortune magazine, a sense of “high stakes, with even a hint of danger.”
Medium and small size companies automatically feel a sense of high stakes, with a hint of danger, due to their position on the revenue food chain, but in most cases, they do not have the benefit of proven, organically engineered organizational structures in place. They simply have not grown to the size that demands such highly engineered structures. Yet, if these structures were in place, their operations could run more smoothly and support rapid growth.
From this author’s point of view, the right service solution includes ISO, KM and L&D because combined, these three solutions can provide small and medium size companies a top-down organizational infrastructure that can optimize and sustain growth over the long haul.
It is also my contention that Boards of Directors are looking for this kind combined approach, but the ISO, KM and L&D industries are not presenting this exciting product/service opportunity to them. Most don’t see it and most don’t have enough understanding about the three industry’s services to actualize it – some KM and high-end L&D practitioners are the most likely people to “get it.”
Another problem is the technology blind spot. Most people think that information (who, what, when, where and how-much?) is knowledge, even though 100s of billions of dollars have been spent on L&D services, proving otherwise. The “knowledge is information” misnomer has been propagated by the big data technologists who have sucked in less wary consultants who are willing to go along with the A.I. stampede. The technology solution must substantially allow users to answer how, why, and what-if (knowledge) process questions on their own during the process of work to gain the greatest impact for an organization’s operation and human culture. We don’t need in-human, logic-based machine spitting-out answers that may or may not be right, for every problem. They rob people of the opportunity to discover and learn. Machines can easily strip away our humanity – and it is doing so on a daily basis.