It was a bit of a coincidence that I landed up in Knowledge Management a long time ago. There was an internal opportunity in one my erstwhile organisations and no one seemed particularly interested. A complex web of events led the opportunity to flow in to my Lotus Notes inbox. The hopeless romantic in me raised its head (as usual) and urged me to explore more! Not before long, I was in a room with my would be boss who had flown down a few thousand miles to meet me! I was scared. I didn’t even know what knowledge management was and my research yielded results that suggested that it was not even remotely connected to what I was doing. Little did I know then that the meeting would change my outlook forever. To my surprise, my would-be-boss’ perspective was refreshingly fresh and I could relate to his views. I signed on a journey in knowledge sharing and entered into a bond with an individual who would evolve to become a friend and a guide who I can get in touch with whenever I need inputs and insights from someone who is more pragmatic and more experienced in life than me (by the way, it is more than 5 years now that I do not work with him but I continue to bug him).
Over the last weekend, as I was trying to settle down in a new city and my newly rented flat, a few questions popped up in my mind: What is that keeps me clinging on to the discipline? What makes me push myself to look for that elusive profile even when I am comfortable in an organisation (that too in a city where I have spent all my life)? What makes me sacrifice living on my own (albeit temporarily) without the two most important people in my life?
It took a bit of time but not before long did the answers start flowing:
Thanks to Knowledge Management, I feel I am a citizen of the world. The discipline has provided me a unique exposure to soak into the different cultures of colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to work with. It has made me a more humble person as I have realized how diverse peoples’ skills and knowledge can be and how little I know in comparison to that. It has allowed me to develop competencies in areas like strategic and structured thinking, innovation, quality and excellence, communication, coaching and mentoring (have always been shameless in copying attributes shared with me by my coaches and mentors over the years), cultural sensitivity etc. But most importantly, it taught me that knowledge resides within people.
The realisation helped me successfully evolve from a role where I helped International Development practitioners execute projects (by ensuring that they get the right knowledge at the right time) to a role where I had to execute projects myself. I did not know much as usual when I started but buoyed by the realisation that I could leverage from the knowledge flowing around me, I went ahead and got involved in some fascinating projects. I did projects for an amazing organisation that saves millions of lives every year. I did projects in Indian states like Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal etc where I got a chance to interact and work with people from all walks of life. I also did a project where the team had to come up with an alternative livelihood strategy for displaced miners. This project holds a special place in my heart as some of the recommendations that we proposed came from the miners themselves (i.e. based on their experience and knowledge) and that too in a scenario where we had interact with each other via interpreters. I got a great deal of satisfaction from what we could deliver to meet the projects’ objectives but as I look back, I realise the thing which I personally did well was to locate and capture knowledge, synthesise and funnel it towards recommendations which were based on common sense and were implementable.
Knowledge Management has helped me make friends. I take a lot of pride in the relationships that I have developed and nothing gives me more pleasure when friends (current & ex-colleagues) wish me luck when I venture into something new. I still remember my last day with the organisation where I started practicing knowledge management. My lotus notes mail box kept sparkling throughout the day as farewell messages kept flowing in. Before handing over my laptop, I did a quick analysis of the messages and realised that people from 30+ countries had written to me. To me, that has been my highlight of my career so far and a souvenir that cannot be matched.
The discipline has never failed to give me the chance to work for some brilliant people. Their outlook towards work and life in general, commitment to the cause, ability to share knowledge with people and at the same time learn from them has enriched me as an individual. In my own way, I have tried to collect knowledge nuggets from them, store them safely in my mind and apply them at appropriate moments. Thank you everyone for being classic KM practitioners!
Status Update: As of 2012…As always I am committed to Knowledge Management. The quest continues….for achieving excellence in knowledge sharing! Please wish me luck.