Knowledge management is rocket science -- at least for a group of people I spent the afternoon with yesterday. I was invited to attend Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's 7th annual Knowledge Management Share Fair. Each year, this KM event grows larger. This year, the exhibits filled the main auditorium and spilled out into the front entrance. No cameras were allowed in the building, so the best I can do is give you this after-the-fact photo of the top of my ID badge:


It was inspiring to be in the auditorium, walking among various KM exhibits from all divisions of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) surrounded by huge rocket engines and pumps from various rockets - they even had a Space Shuttle Main Engine on display.

This KM share fair is not run by vendors, it's put on and presented by users. That's right. Groups within PWR that are involved in any aspect of KM are encouraged to come and set up a table and show what they are doing to identify, collect and share knowledge within their group and across the organization. While much of this was over my head, it's literally rocket science, it was fascinating to see an organization that is embracing key concepts of KM and innovation.

In one corner, there were several displays of various KM tools, also presented by users - no vendors trying to sell you something, just users showing you what they did and how.

I was able to get my first hands-on user demo of AskMe. (Think of it like an internal FaceBook for the organization or an enterprise expertise locator.) AskMe differs from a conventional search engine in that it returns structured search results based on expertise. What stood out to me was how the search results returned were organized from explicit to tacit:
  • Discussions
  • Publications
  • Communities
  • People
The idea is that AskMe will present the most current (e.g. discussions) information on the subject entered. The order of the results, as I mentioned goes from explicit to tacit with the goal of directing the user first to documents (e.g. publications) that may help and finally to the subject matter experts (people) that may have the knowledge needed. Explicit to tacit. Neat!

The other product I was able to experience is Goldfire Researcher by Invention-machine, a semantic search engine. The initial search screen looks like a Google search or a portal search with the check boxes to search either corporate knowledge or personal knowledge (or both). The powerful part of the semantic search is that Goldfire understands (well, mostly) the meaning of words and uses thesaurus references to help find relevant answers. So, if I type in a search for dirt in fuel cell, it may also return results referencing fuel cell contamination, fuel cell debris, damaged fuel cells, etc. Another powerful tool for any enterprise KM toolkit.

The knowledge management team at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne hosts a number of KM events and speakers on a regular basis and I'm grateful for the opportunity to return and attend again.

Discussion/Comments (5):

Knowledge Management Share Fair; it’s Rocket Science!

Thanks for the summary, Eric!

Posted at 09/27/2007 9:06:23 by David Smith

Knowledge Management Share Fair; it’s Rocket Science!

Yes... Knowledge Management and retrieval is key to success to Next generation to achieve the goals of previous generation-->And work as Rocket Science

Posted at 09/27/2007 23:44:57 by Sayed Abdul Kaleem Kazi

Knowledge Management Share Fair; it’s Rocket Science!

Definitely Knowledge Management-->saves time and retrieve related information it will help user to resolve there query

Posted at 09/28/2007 1:39:25 by Abdul Khalik

Knowledge Management Share Fair; it’s Rocket Science!

Hello Eric,

Nice summary of the event. I am especially glad to see you liked Invention Machine Goldfire Researcher. Just to fill in the picture with what you probably didn’t get a chance to see at the event, Goldfire Researcher also provides some pretty advance capabilities such as automatic context sensitive ontology generation, trans-lingua semantic search (i.e. issue an English query and find concepts in Japanese documents), and high-level concept extraction (e.g. cause-effect or mereological relationships).

While Goldfire Researcher provides very strong knowledge management capabilities, it is really a part of Invention Machine’s Goldfire Innovator product which is a platform to enable sustainable innovation best practices (of which knowledge management is a key element). It is in the innovation context that Goldfire Research really shines. Its capabilities are embedded in innovation tasks in such a way as to remove the burden of asking the query from the knowledge worker--in effect, inverting the model so that the data finds the user.

Posted at 09/28/2007 6:51:19 by James Todhunter

re: Knowledge Management Share Fair; it’s Rocket Science!

Thanks, James. I'm delighted that I was able to see Goldfire Researcher, too. I know that, in the very brief time I had I only saw a small portion of what it could do, but I saw enough to know that it was remarkable. It was evident from the user demo that, he was excited and that there was more to understand than was apparent. GR is on my list of KM products to be aware of and to look into for the future. Thanks for your post. Eric.

Posted at 09/28/2007 8:02:10 by Eric Mack

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