Knowledge Ecology

Although we cannot always see our information flows – much of how humans make meaning together is implicit – we can set up our organizations to stay out of our own way. Just like cities built near river ecosystems, we can either impede, pollute and damage our knowledge ecosystems, or we can design our structures to work with and support natural dynamics. Knowledge ecology is the study of how information flows create shared meaning, and of how to keep those processes robust and adaptable.

As knowledge ecology pioneer Yogesh Malhotra explains, knowledge ecology focuses primarily on social networks of individuals in contrast to the overly technological emphasis of traditional knowledge management systems on computers and information technology networks.

Euler Partners believes that the first step in understanding is understanding how your organization understands.

By seeking to understand or at least remove obstacles to the relationships and knowledge exchanges between people, we can begin to work out how knowledge influences action and supports actions that increase our adaptability (see The Six Influence Flows).

The phrase knowledge management may be more familiar, but management is a simple word with varied application and a helluva lot of baggage. In short, the verb means: to be in charge of; administer and regulate; maintain control.

However, as we are contemplating a complex adaptive system here, literally an ecology, one cannot aspire to “manage it”. You might control a simple system, but Euler Partners exists to help you deal with the more common occurrence – complexity.

When working with complexity, it is helpful to have access to the best intelligence. In an organization, the best intelligence is gained by maximizing the agency – the ability to act intelligently – of the individuals in that organization. Focusing on knowledge as an ecosystem rather than as a static resource helps support that collective intelligence and corresponding adaptability. As Darwin didn’t say:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.