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