Common Knowledge Associates

Common Knowledge Associates is a consulting firm founded in 2000 by Dr. Nancy Dixon, with Dr. Dixon serving as principal consultant and researcher.

» Nancy Dixon Biography (PDF)
» Nancy Dixon CV (PDF)

Dr. Dixon was one of the early thought leaders in the Knowledge Management field with her book, Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive By Sharing What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, 2000. That book was based on a research study of how fifteen of the most successful companies were leveraging their knowledge.  Her work was seminal in developing the early theory that demonstrated that different transfer processes were needed for the sharing of tacit knowledge vs. explicit knowledge.  She has continued to advance the leading edge of understanding about the expanding role that knowledge plays in organizations (see Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going - Summary).       

Common Knowledge Associates Client Base


Common Knowledge Associates has deep experience in Healthcare, particularly working with healthcare improvement organizations both in the US and in developing countries.  This work has been two fold, 1) to develop knowledge management systems for each organization, and 2) to train facilitators to conduct large and small group sessions where healthcare professionals learn with and from each other.  Clients include University Research Corporation (URC), Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and numerous regional Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs). 


Common Knowledge Associates has been working for 2 years with Hauwei, the largest telecommunications company in the world, located in China. Dr. Dixon put together a team of five internationally recognized knowledge management consultants to build and implement a knowledge management strategy across Huawei.


Common Knowledge Associates has worked extensively with the US, Canadian, Singapore and the Netherlands governments to implement knowledge management. Clients include The Defense Intelligence Agency, The US Army, US Navy - Carrier Team One, Singapore Armed Forces, NASA, the Federal Reserve of Bank of Cleveland, the Canadian International Development Agency, the National Railroad of the Netherlands, and the National Police Force of the Netherlands, to name a few. 

Oil Industry

The oil industry was one of the early players in knowledge management and continues to have some of the most fully developed knowledge management programs. Clients have included BP, ConocoPhillips, Texaco, Chevron and many others.

The New Frontier of Knowledge Management

To date, Knowledge Management programs have primarily been in service of cost cutting and time saving by moving existing knowledge laterally across organizations. A task it has been remarkably successful at accomplishing. However Knowledge Management has the capability to do much more – it can address an organization’s very difficult and complex issues, for example how to merge two cultures or how to refocus an organization from selling products to selling service. For these, and many other complex issues, current knowledge management strategies are not adequate because no history within the organization is available to draw on for guidance. The knowledge to solve complex problems does not reside in individuals or even in the executive team – but the knowledge does exist in the collective. The new task is to bring together the collective knowledge of the organization to bear on complex issues.

In the last few years, more and more clients are asking Common Knowledge Associates to help convene groups to address the complex issues they are facing. That realization about how Dr. Dixon’s own work is changing has led her to recognize that the time is ripe to move KM to a new level and has encouraged her to focus on building the theory and practice for Collective Sensemaking. 

Collective Sensemaking draws on the sensemaking capability of organizational members. By bringing together cognitively diverse employees in structured conversations, new perspectives are brought to bear on the complex issues of the organization.  Common Knowledge Associates draws on the theory and practice of the proven methodologies of Argyris’ Model II skill set, Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, Knowledge Cafes and the work of Peter Block on Community. Clients for this new work have included, NASA, Ecopetrol in Columbia, The Utrecht Government in the Netherlands and Huawei in China.

The Latest From Nancy's Blog

What Clients Say

"Nancy provides strategic insights to ConocoPhillips. Her ideas spawned our knowledge sharing program (still flourishing today). She was instrumental in getting our execs onboard: a company that connects and operates like a global company would drive business value..."

Dan Ranta
Director, Knowledge Sharing, ConocoPhillips

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"I am impressed by Nancy’s work on knowledge transfer and sensemaking. Her recent work on collective sense making, harnessing collective wisdom to handle organizational complexity, is ground breaking and fascinating..."

Eric Tsui, Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and
VP Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society

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“I know that Nancy understands better than anyone the difference between mere talking and real communication. She is expert at helping groups of people speak listen authentically and intelligently as an important step toward shared understanding, effective problem solving, and innovative thinking..."

Don Cohen
Managing Editor, NASA ASK Magazine

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"HEMA Academie is the largest online academy in the Netherlands, we made the course "Common Knowledge Organizational Learning" because of an interview with Nancy. She is gifted with a special kind of energy and has the power to analyze complex problems as an enthusiastic team player..."

Drs. Helma van den Berg,
Head of production, HEMA Academie

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"Working with Nancy, I've seen first-hand the power of collective sensemaking. Bringing analytic tools to bear provided new insights into interdependent activities, overall system functioning, and leverage points. Collective sensemaking helps teams work smarter."

Mike Silver
SVP of Corporate Operations, HealthInsight

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"Nancy pulled off a great feat at the US Army KM conference. She got the whole room talking, all 200 of them! It broke the mold of presentation after presentation. The feedback was overwhelmingly, "Let's do more of this at the next conference."

COL Charles Burnett
Deputy Director, Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, KS

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"Her approach to collective sensemaking drives how we teach knowledge management, facilitate communities of practice, and coach highly effective teams of leaders. There is no better way to create competitive advantage in the 21st Century knowledge environment."

Mike Hower
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Knowledge Solutions, Inc.

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Recent Client Successes

The US Army KM conference had a very traditional format, three or four speakers in a row, with a few minutes of Q&A then on to the next speaker. Working with the conference design committee, we introduced interaction opportunities spread throughout the conference that made a huge difference for participants...
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Ecopetrol, the largest company in Colombia, held a Technological Environment Forum to build a knowledge management strategy for the company through the work of more than 100 leaders. The Forum contacted Nancy and asked her to come to help them understand effective knowledge management strategy...
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Huawei had twice attempted to implement KM without having achieved the results that had hoped for. When Huawei contacted Nancy, they knew they wanted to focus on the human side of KM, drawing on what people were learning through their on-the-job experience and how to spread that knowledge...
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The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is a leading innovator in health and health care improvement worldwide. I have had the pleasure of consulting to IHI, particularly in the area of “spread” for over 10 years. But until recently IHI has not had a knowledge management program or staff...
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We were able to help save the knowledge developed in the canceled NASA Constellation project. Working with NASA’s Dave Lengyel, we brought together engineers from all 10 NASA centers to develop a knowledge capture strategy...
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