Knowledge Management in Iran

My new KM learning's and insights in Tehran, Iran

by Ron Young

It was certainly a great privilege and pleasure to be invited to Tehran, Iran, to present and facilitate a six day in-depth Knowledge Management programme during the period 8th - 13th May 2010. Whilst there, I gained some very valuable and new learnings and insights into KM which I believe are unique to Iran. This aspect I wish to share and discuss here.

The event was hosted by the National Iranian Productivity Center (NIPC) as part of an 'Expert KM initiative' organised by the Asian Productivity Organisation (APO)

APO have National Productivity Centres in each of the 21 Asian member countries. Although I am based in Cambridge, UK, I have been intensively working with APO for three years, and this trip to Iran has now taken me to 11 Asian member countries, so far, in their mission to increase the productivity, quality and profitability of Asian organizations through effective knowledge management.

My greatest new leaning and insights came from an organised study trip on day 5 to the Iranian Research Institute for Scientific Information & Documentation (IRANDOC).

IRANDOC is the main national and governmental center for accumulating, organizing, processing and disseminating scientific and technological documents. Its main activities are in Research, Training, Information and Knowledge Management services.

As a national organization, established in 1968, it has created and maintains a directory and database of all University theses in Iran. It is mandatory for each student to submit their thesis, through their University, to this organization.

To date, 126,000 theses have been captured, of which 110 are related to Knowledge Management. This is a systematic and collective process.

The first 15 pages of each thesis are freely available to all online in PDF format and, in total, up to 30 pages can be made available for a small nominal cost. IRANDOC maintain the national archive. A recent law in Iran is concerned with publishing all information and IRANDOC are currently discussing copyright with the students.

I am not an expert in such education systems internationally, but to my knowledge, I have not heard of similar national new knowledge collective systems in the USA, Europe, other parts of Asia and the rest of the world?

Through this page, as a KM practitioner and consultant, I ask experts in government and education around the world if similar systems exist in their countries? To my knowledge this only occurs at a University level?

IRANDOCS advised us that there is not as much collaboration between Universities as they would like to see (as I have experienced also in the rest of the world) but I think this central archive and repository is an excellent inter-organizational infrastructure to help building increased collaboration across Universities.

So I was further impressed by the process whereby each University must make a proposal, at the moment by letter and later online, to ensure that each new thesis is non-repetitive and true new knowledge. (I have often doubted the existing University procedures around the world that just 'do a critical review of the literature' as I am certain that this could be error prone, on occasions, and this could lead to academically 're-inventing the wheel'.

Imagine, educational politics aside, a global repository of theses across all Universities, from a global knowledge management perspective.

The next initiative that greatly impressed me, at IRANDOCS, is how they also capture nationally a 'Who's Who' list of experts. Each University is the main input, and submits a bio and information which is indexed to affiliates, associates, advisors, readers, projects worked on etc.

Furthermore, from each national and international conference held, further keynote speakers, speakers and workshop leaders are added to this national expert locator and database. It is new and very popular.

Again, through this page, I ask experts in government and education around the world if similar national expert systems exist in their countries? To my knowledge this does not occur, either? Please let me know.

I thought to myself that if you combine the national explicit repository of theses together with the national expert directory of tacit knowledge, and mix them together with robust collective and systematic knowledge processes, as they are starting to do, you have a very powerful national knowledge leadership and edge.

Finally, we were presented with an update of a new initiative to integrate all the libraries across Iran, to start with. There are no integrated systems as yet, and many are incompatible, but the vision and aim is clearly there, based on inter-library law to maximise the use of all documents. In this system, today, it is possible for an individual to ask IRANDOC for any book, which they will locate and send, on a temporary basis. I think this system of national library integration is proceeding across the world right now.

Politics aside, imagine a worldwide digital integration of libraries, which is a clear aim of organizations like Google, for example.

IRANDOC concluded by advising us that their next research project has gone beyond the Universities to 'Organizations'. The public sector must report, and gain full access, and the private sector is commencing with summary information, not as detailed.

Back in the KM in-depth workshop that I was leading, we discussed this new learning and KM initiative against the progress each participant organization was making in KM.

Of the 24 delegates, we had KM practitioners and representatives from 4 national banks. The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in particular, was well advanced over several years implementation, in developing 'learning objects' in the training division, and turning them into 'knowledge objects' in the organization as a whole. Other representatives, from other Banks, Industrial Development and Renovation, Chamber of Commerce, Mines and Mining Industries, Ministries of Science, Research and Technology, Education, Road and Transportation, Government Strategic Planning and Control, and NIPC, were embarking on their KM implementations. Many were using the APO KM Framework and KM Implementation methodology as central components of their KM strategies.

Towards the end of the 6 day event, inspired by my friend and colleague, David Gurteen, I introduced a Knowledge Cafe which was most refreshing, successful, and gave us all the time and an opportunity to reflect and share more deeply, what we had all learned during the week.

The people I met during the trip were so kind and courteous, very inquisitive indeed, and a joy to work with.

If you have the opportunity to visit Tehran, Iran, make sure you try the ice cream too ... its beyond words.

Ron Young

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