Professional and Alumni

Kappa Omicron Nu Dialogue
Vol. 10, No. 2 - © 2000 by Kappa Omicron Nu

Knowledge Management
Making an Impact on the Future

Message from the Board of Directors

Knowledge Management (KM)

Dorothy I. Mitstifer

The theme of the October 2000 issue of Knowledge Management entitled “What’s So Scary about KM?” was the intriguing question that lead to this article. The cutting edge trend of “knowledge management” in the business world is a popular approach for utilizing formal and informal intellectual capital to increase the effectiveness and quality of work life and the business enterprise.

Failures Inform

Although a recent survey reported that 80 percent of the world’s biggest companies have knowledge management efforts underway, the success rate is low. As a way to develop principles for managing knowledge, Barth (2000) recounts the failures:

The Field of Dreams trap – Instead of assuming that “if you build it they will come” to a project planned to share knowledge and add to the knowledge capacity of the organization, there must be a clear problem to solve. If you don’t have a focus—a problem, don’t do it.

Lax quality control – A database and a method of collecting and monitoring knowledge are essential for archiving the content and conserving it. Intellectual capital must be accessible to have value.

Incomplete theoretical framework (understanding just enough to be dangerous) – The notion of knowledge management is potent, but the need for a collaborative, sharing culture is not well understood. New ideas, technologies, and reengineering of processes are perceived as the secrets to successful outcomes but do not materialize without the appropriate culture.

Fear of commitment – Knowledge sharing and innovation are often the desired outcomes, but behavior often reflects the opposite. When professional standing depends on what one knows that others don’t, there is a negative consequence to sharing.

Incompatible networking technology – Electronic compatibility is an essential foundation for sharing within and across sites. The ability to communicate easily is a basic necessity.

The bogeyman – “The concept that unarticulated knowledge is an asset—like gold, manufacturing equipment, or real estate—is profoundly wrong. Knowledge is an emergent property of interpersonal relationships, and the only way to manage it is to create an environment in which open collaboration is the norm, not the exception” (Boyd, 2000).

Although there is often more learning from mistakes than successes, it makes good sense to learn from somebody else’s mistakes to create principles for success.

KM and Leadership

The relationship of KM to leadership, and particularly Reflective Human Action, is obvious to this writer. The following leadership principles are described in KM perspectives as a possible rubric for success:

Accept chaos – Similar to the phenomenon of order coming out of chaos, “knowledge is both a thing and a capability. . . .Capabilities are more dynamic and more useful. You don’t manage capabilities like machines because they constantly evolve. You manage capabilities as an ecology” (Barth, 2000). Complexity theory helps link organizational learning and KM.

Share information – The culture needs to create mechanisms and trust to support the value of sharing. Research to extract the values and rule sets by which a community is organized will provide insight into acceptable means of sharing information in that setting. Story telling is being explored as a way of sharing tacit knowledge.

Develop relationships – “Effective communities of practice increase . . . social capital: the economic value of the relationships within an organization” (Eisenhart, 2000). As with leadership, relationships are at the core of KM.

Embrace vision – Snowden (2000) states that the journey is more important than the goal. “All you can do is decide what direction you are going . . . and create a sense-and-respond organization that can change direction if necessary.”

Because of this relationship between leadership and KM, what are the implications for Kappa Omicron Nu and its mission of empowered leaders?

KM and Kappa Omicron Nu

Certainly an honor society should value and embrace knowledge management. The challenge is to value it enough to change our organizational behavior. As stated above, it isn’t enough to build and they will come. National Kappa Omicron Nu has built the structures; now it is time to agree on the clear problem to be solved.

It is interesting to note that George Washington University has recently inaugurated a knowledge management graduate certificate program for masters and doctoral programs. But what are baccalaureate programs doing to prepare graduates to enter the professional world and function effectively in knowledge management environments? Because of the complimentary nature of leadership and KM, Kappa Omicron Nu has the opportunity to provide leadership education through utilizing its very own Reflective Human Action theory to integrate co-curricular and academic goals in this domain. The writer trusts that this article has made the case for the problem: How do we prepare graduates to enter the professional world and function in the era of KM and dependence on social capital?


Barth, S. (2000). The organic approach to the organization. Knowledge Management, 3(10), 22-25.

Barth, S. (2000). KM horror stories. Knowledge Management, 3(10), 37-40

Eisenhart, M. (2000). Around the virtual water cooler. Knowledge Management, 3(10), 49-52.

Making an Impact on the Future

The AAFCS PreConference, "Kappa Omicron Nu's Impact on the Future of Leadership Development," held June 23, 2000 in Chicago utilized the scenario planning process to explore pictures of what the world might look like if today's critical trends and forces take a wild leap ten years ahead into the future. The intention was to learn from the process to position Kappa Omicron Nu to be successful regardless of what the future brings.

The Kappa Omicron Nu Board and Conclave Delegate Assembly will have the opportunity to use the knowledge from scenario planning to meet the challenges regarding the future of the human sciences, higher education, and professinal practice. a few insights from scenario teams include: 

Accept “change” as a challenge and teach the process of change.

Root in the past, celebrate the present, but create the future.

Set priorities and FOCUS.

Facilitate undergraduate research and the fun of learning.

Promote regional and national dialogue to facilitate chapter networking.

Mentor advisers to support their important role in the honor society.

Model the adviser role as a “roadrunner” scholar who has an opportunity to learn and create as well as to facilitate student development.

Promote the stewardship of leadership development in the academic culture.

Increase the role of National Kappa Omicron Nu in “virtual” learning and communities.

Build community and partnerships.

Seek the transformation of information into wisdom.

When asked to prioritize, participants focused on the need to make a greater impact on student leadership development and the chapter role in that goal. Another high priority had to do with selecting the niche where Kappa Omicron Nu can make a difference and focus energy and resources in that pursuit. Eric Craymer, the facilitator for scenario planning, concluded that the insights could be collapsed into six meta-strategies:

Define who we are and what is special about us.

Develop ways to express that definition and realize its intent.

Communicate and illustrate that definition and intent to those outside of the community.

Acculturate those in the community so that they understand that definition and intent.

Ensure that our actions and our communications are relevant to that definition, our members, and those around us.

Constantly adapt that definition and intent to the world around us as it changes.

The Kappa Omicron Nu Board of Directors has a good history of looking toward the future, and the PreConference offered the involvement of members in thinking about the future. Therefore, the outcome has merit for application at the different levels and classifications of membership. At the National level, the following questions will direct further action:

How do we answer the questions raised, both organizationally and individually?

Which of the activities suggested need to be done first and how?

What can National Kappa Omicron Nu do that other parts of the community cannot?

What is National Kappa Omicron Nu’s role in acculturation and standardization?

How do we more effectively empower leaders at all levels?

How can we continue this dialogue?

What tools needed by the community does national best provide?

Bell and Harari (2000) challenge organizations to compete in the age of the “Road Runner” (of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner fame) in the following manner: “It would never occur to a roadrunner to be arrogant. Arrogant leaders focus on either the past or their image, caught up in what they were or what they seem. Roadrunners are more interested in what they can be. Their forward-looking nature keeps them forever filled with awe, not weighted down by history or image” (p. 98). Through careful addition and wise alteration, Kappa Omicron Nu can increase its value in serving members and the human sciences community.


Bell, C. R., & Harari, O. (2000). Beep! Beep!: Competing in the age of the road runner. New York: Warner Books.

Message from the Board of Directors

Janis B. VanBuren

Greetings! It was great to see many of you in Chicago. The Coordinating Council of Honor Societies luncheon was well attended. Amanda Fritz from Bradley University, who received the Undergraduate Research Award, gave an outstanding presentation titled, "The Effect of Interactive Elements on Time Spent in the Store.”

Participants in our AAFCS Pre-conference, "KON's Impact on the Future of Leadership Development," were challenged to expand their ways of thinking. Each of the five scenario teams was asked to create a story on what we, as an organization, might look like ten years from now and how we got there. Each group was given a plot with parameters from which to operate. These plots ranged from a very positive picture to one of gloom and doom. At the end of this day of very hard thinking, everyone agreed that many creative ideas had emerged. The challenge we now have is to integrate the positive strategies into our plan of work in order to have a continuing impact on leadership development.

In early June, Dorothy Mitstifer and I had the opportunity to participate in the 2000 Student Learning Institute at James Madison University. We were in a multicultural, multinational learning environment consisting of student affairs, academic affairs, and faculty professionals. The focus of the Institute was "Powerful Partnerships: Sharing Responsibility for Learning." Sessions focused on creating inclusive learning communities, institutional change, first-year experience, service learning, changing faculty roles, working across campus boundaries to improve multicultural environments, collaborative leaderships, the faculty role in creating seamless learning environments, and assessing holistic learning opportunities. Much of what we learned will guide us as we prepare for the sixth KON Leadership Conclave in Orlando, FL, August 2-5, 2001. The Conclave theme is, "Reflective Human Action: Integrating Academic and Co-Curricular Goals."

At the opening session Dr. Lee Ward, Director of the Institute, stated, "We have a choice to creatively come together to produce new environments and new opportunities for our students. Collaboration is becoming an expectation. It is the right thing to do. We must cross lines that we have never crossed before." He further noted that we have had functional silos and now we need functional integration.

Dr. Greg Blimling, Appalachian State University, acknowledged that developing collaborative programs at a university is not easy. According to Blimling, territoriality, limited resources, poor communication, and other commitments often discourage collaborative efforts.

However, Frankie Minor, University of Missouri at Columbia, emphasized that the Student Learning Imperative developed by members of the American College Personnel Association calls for the creation of a seamless learning experience for students. Minor observed that, "Learning communities have proven to be an effective opportunity for faculty and student affairs staff to work together."

Why are we looking at these issues? Because as an honor society our mission is creating empowered leaders. One way to do this is collaborating with and creating strong affiliation networks on our own campuses and between campuses. We are in the position to be leaders in this arena.

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