I enjoyed a pleasant email exchange recently with someone who referenced an earlier (infamous?) blog posting regarding what I witnessed as the death of Knowledge Management in the U.S. Department of Defense. Without rehashing that work, I was interested to see that the post was circulating again. I’m happy to be updated on what I saw in 2009, and welcome any opportunity to update that observation.
Within the email exchange, I was asked a question – what do I see as the difference between Information Management and Knowledge Management? I thought I would share that answer here, offering it up to the gods of Google, in case I need it again someday.
The difference between IM and KM is the difference between a recipe and a chef, a map of London and a London cabbie, a book and its author. Information is in technology domain, and I include books (themselves a technology) in that description. Digitizing, subjecting to semantic analysis, etc., are things we do to information. It is folly to ever call it knowledge, because that is the domain of the brain. And knowledge is an emergent property of a decision maker – experiential, emotional framing of our mental patterns applied to circumstance and events. It propels us through decision and action, and is utterly individual, intimate and impossible to decompose because of the nature of cognitive processing. Of course, I speak here of individual knowledge.
First principles, don’t lose sight of how we process our world.
The difficulty is applying this understanding to organizational knowledge. Knowledge is only in the brain, but organizations have a shared understanding (referred to as ‘knowledge’) as well – humans gathered in groups fit themselves into artificial decision constructs (“collaboration,” “consensus”) in order to leverage the collective individual knowledge to make decisions for the group. My approach is to understand cognitive science, organizational theory, and information science to understand ways to improve group behaviors.