Why knowledge sharing is even more important in the COVID-19 era: insights from CII’s Global Knowledge Virtual Summit

By Madanmohan Rao|24th Jun 2020
In our second preview article on CII’s summit, we share examples of effective collaboration during the COVID-19 crisis and broader implications for knowledge management.
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This year, CII’s annual knowledge summit is being held entirely online on July 6-8, and is titled CII Global Knowledge Virtual Summit 2020: Knowledge in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. YourStory is the media partner for this edition of the  summit as well (see Part I and Part II of our coverage of the 2019 summit).


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Originally scheduled to be held in Bengaluru in March this year, the summit was initially postponed due to COVID-19. In a show of resilience and creativity, all sessions will be held next month – but online.


The core themes this year include the evolution of knowledge management (KM) to incorporate new forms of intelligence from big data, automation and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).


Other topics are gamification, co-creation, and storytelling. In this second preview article, YourStory presents insights from the speakers and organisers of the CII summit, as well as experts from the Knowledge Management Global Network (see Part I of our coverage here).

Knowledge sharing in the COVID-19 era

Effective knowledge management incorporates speedy connectivity, content platforms, community participation, and a culture of trust. The importance of these sensemaking and knowledge-sharing practices were highlighted during the pandemic responses.


“The Kerala government’s response to COVID-19 is a case study in harnessing the power of KM for solving real-world problems. They applied the lessons learnt from the Nipah virus episodes to the COVID-19 crisis,” explains Balaji Iyer, Director of Knowledge Management and Enterprise Transformation at Grant Thornton, in a chat with YourStory.


“The way they institutionalised critical knowledge by updating their protocols and leveraged community management principles is an inspiration,” he adds.

 

In a series of LinkedIn articles, Randhir Pushpa, Founder and Chief Consultant, ACIES Innovations, shows how KM practices were used by Taiwan and New Zealand in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. “Unfortunately, many other countries did not effectively share knowledge during the ongoing crisis, or did not reuse lessons learnt from past crises,” he explains.


For example, Taiwan reused practices learnt during the earlier SARS crisis. These include the use of protective masks, public health communication, and border controls. Cellphones were used for contact tracing, and hospitals got access to patient travel records. Standardised processes were used for manufacture of medical equipment.


New Zealand implemented knowledge sharing via digital diary apps to track movements. Standardised guidelines were issued for public transportation and general public wellbeing.


In India, the state of Kerala drew key lessons from its handling of the earlier Nipah virus. Randhir explains that these best practices included the importance of finding ‘Patient Zero’, building route maps, educating the media and the public, and tapping grassroots communities.

 

“Apps like India’s Arogya Setu and Telangana’s T-COVID are good examples of KM contributions from the industry, state and central governments, industry bodies like NASSCOM, and NITI Aayog,” explains Gopichand Katragadda, Chairman, Global Knowledge Summit 2020, and Founder and CEO at Myelin Foundry.


“I have myself participated in the NASSCOM efforts led by Nivruti Rai. There is tremendous capability and an intense desire to contribute for regional and global benefit which was showcased during the pandemic,” Gopichand observes. The Arogya Setu app has also been open-sourced for further development beyond the original mandate.


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“During the COVID-19 crisis, I have witnessed how government, businesses and non-profit organisations (NPOs) have come together to develop solutions for the community,” explains Mohamad Faiz Selamat, Vice President, Knowledge Management Society (Singapore).


As an example, he cited the Food Security Work Group that was convened by Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). It brought together NPOs (Free Food For All, Willing Hearts) and businesses (DBS - Development Bank of Singapore).


“Together, they developed solutions to ensure that low-income families are food-secure throughout the crisis,” Mohamad adds. Each agency brought its own data and insights (e.g. national databases, business consumer insights) and on-the-ground sensing to co-create these solutions.

 

“One of the main challenges during the coronavirus crisis was dealing with knowledge and information overflow,” recalls Moria Levy, CEO, ROM Knowledgeware. In response, KM practitioners in organisations developed a range of one-pagers and mini-portals with links, updates, and abstracts.

 

(See also my write-ups on Sensing, Sensemaking and Sensitising, and the ‘5 T’s of communicating during crises (transparency, timeliness, trust, tenacity, togetherness). A crisis is an opportunity for learning, collaboration and transformation, as evocatively described in our compilation of 60 Quotes on Coping with a Crisis.)

 

One of the effects of the pandemic was to force employees to work from home – which lead to more opportunities for global collaboration online. Bosch’s “Smart Coffee Break” was an effective initiative during COVID-19, explains Manoj Hariharan, Chief Knowledge Officer at Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions.


“Because of the requirement of working from home, a global initiative with simultaneous participation from the Western and Eastern regions became a reality. Irrespective of local times, our employees eagerly joined the Smart Coffee Break session to learn about software development technologies and tools from their colleagues who had a head-start,” he observes.


“During the COVID-19 crisis, organisations that had a structured KM program in place were able to move into the new mode of working much faster and more effectively. Learning has moved into a totally digital mode,” observes Ved Prakash, Chief Knowledge Officer of Trianz. Very successful blended learning models have evolved in a short period of time not just in businesses but also in educational institutes.


While some organisations practised effective knowledge sharing during the pandemic, there were unfortunately many governments and healthcare organisations that seemed to show how NOT to do KM. “In some cases, there has been an utter lack of best practice sharing, reuse of successful strategies, or pooling together of resources and expertise,” Ved laments.

Post-pandemic world: acceleration of knowledge management

The pandemic has accelerated society’s acceptance of knowledge-sharing frameworks, remote work, empathetic design, and importance of trust in co-creation. The speakers shared a number of such KM approaches which will speed up in the post-COVID-19 era.


“Perhaps the greatest opportunities will come from two areas that were seriously disrupted by COVID-19: healthcare and education,” observes Arthur Murray, CEO of Applied Knowledge Sciences, in Washington, DC.


“It is almost an opportunity to start all over from a clean slate – taking a knowledge-intensive approach as opposed to one that is data-centric,” he adds. This includes personalised as well as population-centric approaches to segmentation.


“Only through KM can we hope to transition to an individualised, student-centred education system, and an individualised, patient-centric healthcare system,” Arthur emphasises.


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“Many organisations have now implemented collaboration technologies, and this will pave the way for a more fluid knowledge sharing experience,” observes Balaji Iyer of Grant Thornton. The future working world is going to be remote and super cost-conscious, he adds.


Knowledge sharing culture and tools will be in front and centre. “Think about the most-used applications in the current times. At least one of them is going to be a collaboration tool and another a knowledge base,” he adds. He also points to the embedding of critical knowledge components in business processes as a way of reducing delivery costs.

 

“Harnessing all realms of knowledge within and outside an organisation is going to be important for survival and success. Globally distributed teams working out of offices, living rooms and cafes need to collaborate via virtual spaces,” Balaji explains.


“Society 5.0 is a cyber-physical society. There is an acceptance of the productivity of work from home, balanced with the need for periodic physical interactions and leveraging relationships for workplace productivity,” observes Gopichand Katragadda of Myelin Foundry.


“KM and learning will go 80 percent online and virtual. The best of the trainers will be available to the workforce in the remotest corners of the world,” he adds. He himself has participated in virtual strategy sessions with online meetings and break-outs. “To my surprise, they were far more efficient than in-person strategy sessions,” Gopichand claims.


“The post-COVID-19 world is going to set a new normal for the way we work across industries. Face to face interactions will give way to digital interactions in various domains,” Ved Prakash of Trianz predicts.


“All this will necessitate existence of a sound knowledge base with machine learning capabilities and extensive use of collaboration technologies. The importance of KM will come to the fore and will start occupying prime mind space as far as leaders are concerned,” he adds.


The COVID-19 crisis has spurred more interest in KM, according to Rajesh Dhillon, President, Knowledge Management Society (KMS), Singapore. “The focus on capturing knowledge and making sense of it to ensure fast learning was fully virtual thanks to video conferencing,” he explains.


“The search, use and re-use of knowledge also saw an increase, with knowledge communities forming within organisations,” Rajesh observes. These included help desks on WhatsApp, e-mentors on Zoom and Teams, and the Gnowbe app for collaborative discussion. Knowledge repositories and robust KM systems became key assets for many firms, he adds.


“The pandemic has enlightened the world to the importance of knowledge sharing,” says Mohamad Faiz Selamat of KMS. Some of the obvious benefits of KM are visible in the fields of medicine (development of a vaccine) and communications technology (contact tracing and technology-enabled tracking).


“Post-COVID-19, I hope businesses and governments continue to see how effective KM can bring benefit to the global economy,” Mohamad adds. Examples include advancements in logistics (shortened delivery schedule powered by AI) and shifts in consumption patterns (online shopping).





Digital platforms for communication and content sharing occupied centre-stage during the pandemic, observes Refiloe Mabaso, Deputy Chairperson of Knowledge Management South Africa (KMSA). Use of knowledge-sharing tools and online training will be increasingly adopted.


“The world is in a century where knowledge is the main asset for the success of people and organisations. Therefore, every opportunity is a good one for accelerating KM,” says Moria Levy of ROM Knowledgeware.


“In the pandemic period, we learned that organised and shared information and knowledge can be key differentiators. KM has many more benefits than this, and can offer a rich value proposition to organisations,” she adds.


KM helped organisations deal with the challenges of isolation during the lockdown periods, according to Vincent Ribière, Managing Director and Co-founder of the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation Southeast Asia (IKI-SEA), hosted by Bangkok University. Continued benefits of KM in the post-COVID-19 era will be in expertise development and location, and effective decision-making.


Interestingly, as companies embrace digital transformation more deeply as a result of the pandemic, they stand to reap the benefits of AI further down the road, according to Jennifer Mecherippady, Senior Vice-President of CGI and Business Unit Leader – Asia Pacific Solutions Delivery Centre.

“AI requires data to map new models and patterns. The COVID-19 crisis has created a need for almost all industries to accelerate the transformation to Digital. This means there will be a lot of data since it is generated digitally, which will help AI systems to learn and optimise,” Jennifer sums up.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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