The framework and ISO standards for Collaboration, KM and Innovation

A NetIKX seminar, 26 November 2020

Typewriter with the word 'Knowledge'
Knowledge by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

At first glance it may seem counterintuitive to have standards for innovation and collaboration – these are, after all, things which many people perceive as happening organically and spontaneously:  the myth of creativity as a ‘Eureka moment’ is still prevalent, despite evidence to the contrary. Standards are often viewed as being imposed by authority and making work processes more cumbersome and bureaucratic. In this seminar, Ron Young of Knowledge Associates outlined how standards can in fact provide a framework for creativity and innovation and how they can be applied within an organisation.

Ron began by outlining the need for standards in knowledge management, starting with the 1998 white paper on ‘UK competitiveness in the global knowledge-driven economy’, a high-level strategy for the UK which acknowledged that effective collaboration, co-creation, knowledge and innovation were difficult to copy and were therefore key to global competitiveness and sustainability. As humans, we like to collaborate and share, but trust needs to be in place for this to succeed. Trusted partnerships and a collaborative business model are vital. The development of blockchain technology is relevant here as it provides a decentralised trust model for the exchange of information. Ron reminded us that trusted systems are as important as trusted people. 

The importance of collaboration was illustrated by a number of examples of international projects, ranging from the establishment of the first Europe-wide KM team in 1999, the first pan-European KM conference in 2000 and the first global KM community of practice in 2001, through to the publication of the global KM standard, ISO 30401 in 2018. This standard was also adopted by the European Space Agency as the basis for its knowledge management governance framework.

We then learned more about the published standards ISO 44001 (collaborative partnerships), ISO 30401 (knowledge management) and ISO 56002 (innovation management) as well as the way in which these, along with ISO 55001 (intangible asset management) and ISO 27001 (information security) all fit together to form a common framework for knowledge- and information-driven thought leadership. Knowledge asset management (the ‘Internet of Assets’) is fundamental to achieving organisational objectives, but ethical considerations are also crucial, especially as we enter a world dominated by artificial intelligence. This has been recognised by the IEEE in their work on ethically aligned design. Ron pointed out that all ISO standards now ensure that the principles of the standard are embedded in the standard itself. As technologies, processes and people all change over time, principles remain the same and provide a reminder of why we are ‘doing’ KM. We need to make sure that knowledge is transformative and strategic and to build a ‘virtuous spiral’ of knowledge. 

As is traditional at NetIKX seminars, the talk was followed by syndicate sessions (replicated in Zoom by breakout rooms) during which we discussed the issues covered in Ron’s presentation, including our own experiences of using and applying standards, the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and the importance of keeping the ‘human in the loop’ in KM processes in which algorithms and machine learning are incorporated. We were all impressed by the way in which Ron made a potentially dry subject so interesting and relevant to everyday KM practice.

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