27 June 2018 – KM Room 101 – Henley

Knowledge Management Room 101

KM Forum Event at Henley Business School

Hosted by Dr Sharon Varney and facilitated by Tim Andrews


What would you consign to Room 101?

James Brown from thehappyworkplace.co.uk formed an expert panel with Cora Newell and Chris Collison to argue which things from the world of knowledge management should be consigned to the imaginary but infamous Room 101.

James argued for Management Speak and Technology in the first two rounds. In the final round he argued for HR and Mechanistic Mindset.

The overall winner was Management Speak. Here’s why:

Using unnecessary, and often ridiculous, terms and phrases serves only to exclude people and undermine the principle objective of knowledge sharing by obfuscating content. Excluding someone is also likely to damage their well-being. And why would you want to do that?

Ultimately though, for these reasons and more, management speak is to the detriment of business value and so was voted the top KM peeve by the Henley Forum. Let’s all try to stop talking a load of buzzwords.


Here is how the rounds went:

Round One
  • Financial incentives for KM
  • Knowledge is Power
  • Management speak – winner
Round Two
  • Burdensome KM systems
  • Technology
  • Lessons learned databases – winner
Round Three
  • HR and the mechanistic mindset – winner
  • Angry KM gurus
  • Senior management who don’t get it



Honorable mentions:

Technology is almost always a distraction from the real work. Regardless of what the real work is. Unless the work is creating technology.Knowledge is only of any use if it is shared with another person. Knowledge that can be shared with machines isstill called programming. In 2018, at least.

Technology is the last thing that needs to be considered but is often the first,and that often turns what should have been a behavioural change piece into an IT project – which is a distraction from the work that really needs to be done.


Human Resources and the Mechanistic Mindset

Humans are NOT resources.

Seeing humans and their knowledge as resources is a symptom of a much more pervasive mechanistic mindset. Seeing the organisation as a machine consisting of various parts all working together has long been the pre-eminent model. It is easy to understand. It has some unfortunate consequences for knowledge sharing and for people however.

If you feel like a cog in a machine you feel dispensable, replaceable, serviceable and upgradeable and that doesn’t motivate the best behaviours. If knowledge or even people become commodities we dehumanise work and we dehumanise each other. History is is littered with examples of that ending badly.

If we see knowledge as a commodity we mistakenly view it as packages of content that can be transferred from the point of generation to the point of need, typically, although not exclusively, via a database of some sort. A great deal of effort in KM has been concerned with finding the most efficient and effective ways of extracting and transferring these knowledge ‘parcels’.

The mechanistic, the computer metaphor for knowledge needs to die and be replaced with a more humanistic approach because almost all knowledge has some emotional, or at least non-factual, content. The transfer of that content is just as important as the factual content, perhaps more so.

Not to mention the benefits of more and better quality face to face contact….

Consider placing the emphasis differently in this sentence to change the meaning, bearing in mind the content is identical:

What can you do to make your workplace happier?

What can you do to make your workplace happier?

What can you do to make your workplace happier?


See the LinkedIn post for more public comment

See also the longer article on Humans are NOT Resources.



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