Day 17 – Q: Question – Culture of Asking

Over the past two decades, Information Technology (IT) has impacted most disciplines, including Knowledge Management. However, there is a growing realisation and acknowledgement that despite the impact of IT, it is the human being and not the computer who hold the key to Knowledge Management.

Of late, the buzz word in Knowledge Management has been the development of ‘knowing culture’ to gain competitive advantage. One of the key elements of the knowing culture is the ability to ask questions. While this sounds simple, in practical terms it often poses a significant challenge. Asking questions is often perceived as:
• A sign of weakness
• Lack of knowledge on a topic
• A betrayal of your own intelligence

Let us remind ourselves of some of the questions which have truly been game changers. Isaac Newton asked, “Why does an apple fall from a tree?” Charles Darwin asked, “Why do the Galapagos islands have so many species not found elsewhere?” Albert Einstein asked, “What would the universe look like if I rode through it on a beam of light?” If we analyse the questions and their consequences, we realise that they resulted in the creation of new knowledge. They led to breakthroughs.

One of the best examples on the importance of asking in the context of organisational culture comes from Google. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.”

I do hope the examples provided above justify my passion for promoting the concept of ‘culture of asking’ through the Knowledge Management agenda. However, it would be important to note that the Knowledge Management team alone cannot bring about the change in culture. Nor would it be prudent to put the onus solely on individuals. It would require organisations to rethink their overall organisational culture strategy. If leaders do the ‘walk the talk’ and encourage the staff to follow suit the chances of success would be a lot more.

If you find the topic of interest, you may want to read this article ‘Ask questions: The single most important habit for innovative thinkers’. Please click here to read more.

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