Quest for knowledge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am

It's not enough to love information to be a knowledge management professional who also needs to love people, according to Eva Lo, director of knowledge management at Langham Place.

In a typical day, I work with systems and processes and try to improve the hotel's effectiveness and performance. I also deal with a lot of reports, data and statistics, carry out a great deal of analysis and thinking, and make recommendations to the hotel's senior management on how to improve work procedures which lead to better service levels, productivity and efficiency.

All this is very technical and is what people think knowledge management (KM) is all about. When I give my business card to people, they usually think I work in information technology (IT). But IT is only a tool that is used to achieve KM objectives.

The other part of what I do is constantly meeting people and building relationships. I need to know my colleagues in other departments and understand their operations. I need to be very persuasive and build good relationships. I also meet a lot of people outside the hotel who work in industries, such as human resources and training, and I have to be up on the market and share information. In addition, I conduct a lot of training at the hotel.

On one hand my role is about the technical side of things, which is introverted, but the other part is about making sure people know how to use knowledge to improve their work, which demands an extroverted, people-oriented personality. Knowledge management needs someone who can balance both to be good. KM isn't well defined or well known in Hong Kong, although there is a knowledge management society here. Nonetheless, in the past year or two, it's become more established and the opportunities are great.

When you're hiring, you need somebody who is hungry for knowledge. This is tough, because Hong Kong's education system still relies on rote learning, force-feeding and examinations. This doesn't encourage you to be creative, innovative, or curious, the qualities you need to be in KM.

You also have to be confident and brave, and happy to challenge conventional wisdom and practices. I'm very lucky, because my company encourages people to take risks, be brave and speak up, which accounts in part for our success.

You also need generosity of spirit to be willing to share your best. Many people don't do this. This isn't because they are selfish but because, if they are in a work environment where they are under pressure and working long hours, it doesn't encourage them to share. I think Hong Kong employers should think about this.

People in the KM profession need to be able to see the big picture in addition to the small details. They have to be able to make good judgments and to sift through all the data that goes through their office.

It's so easy to picture me in a profession that craves information. After all, you have to collect, organise, analyse and use information. You have to make that information useful to other people. If you don't love other people you won't do it well.

Finally, if you want to be a KM professional, you need to experience the world, travelling abroad and working in various occupations, companies and industries. I know this contradicts conventional wisdom in Hong Kong but I think, to be a good KM professional, broad knowledge is essential.