Charles Christian’s latest UnCut comment… Now we all accept that knowledge management (KM) is a core element of the modern law firm infrastructure. Afterall, it represents both the firm’s current intellectual capital and a vital training asset/best practice guide for future fee earners. This is, hopefully, a lesson that was learned the best part of 15 years ago. But, why does KM have to be so dull?
Large law firms spend h-u-g-e amounts of money on KM, creating systems that are universally dull and generally unloved by the very people – the lawyers – who are meant to benefit from them. Justin North of Janders Dean recently tweeted that “KM can go horribly wrong when taken too seriously – especially if serious people are involved.”
And, sadly, serious people usually are involved in the KM.
Just look at the usual suspects we have here: law librarians, legal information service specialists, PSL/professional support lawyers and KM consultants. And the last-named take themselves very seriously – they have to, given the fee rates they charge!
Now of course from time-to-time these people do try to make KM “fun” by creating group learning exercises or by giving little prizes (such Mars Bars) as an incentive to get lawyers to participate in their KM projects. But, really?
Busy lawyers have better things to do with their lives than faffing around with party games they last played in primary school/first grade (or with Nanny or at Prep School for lawyers working in Magic Circle firms). As for Mars Bars! We’re talking about lawyers who can afford to buy their own sweet shops, so a Mars Bars is not actually a big incentive.
Instead of trying to add fun to something that is inherently dull, KM needs to be viewed in the same way that the wider news and information world is already heading – by placing the emphasis upon infotainment from the outset. Look at the Mail Online, the most popular online news source on the planet. Is that dull? Of course not. True, it may be filled with non-stories about non-celebrities you’ve never heard of – but it gets read.
The same goes for BuzzFeed and its never-ending stories about 29 Cute pussy cats that will tug your heart strings and 18 Cheese dishes to eat with vodka in Finland.
Call it the BuzzFeedification of knowledge management if you like but the current KM content model is broken and needs to be radically rethought. So throw away those Mars Bars (you don’t need the extra calories anyway) and start working on 23 Lessons the firm learned from its latest commercial property dispute or 14 Things you need to know about patent infringement in the Czech Republic.