When people talk about knowledge management, they actually mean information management

Ian Richardson wrote ‘When is Knowledge Management Not Knowledge Management?’ on April 23, 2010. As I write a lot about providing context on this blog, I really liked his second last sentence:

“When people talk about knowledge management, they actually mean information management. You may think I’m playing with semantics, but there is an important distinction and one which applies to people such as I, who are in the business of managing information.

To imply that computer systems manage knowledge, demonstrates a fundamental omission in understanding of how people interact with computers. It implies that if you take information a and apply it to person b, then person b will become “knowledgable” about a. This is far from accurate. People (as the dictionary definitions state) have a mental state of “knowledge” which is affected by whatever new information is added. […]

One cannot impart knowledge simply by making information available. Knowledge is a state of mind, gained from a gradual layering of learning experiences over time.

Companies implementing e-learning systems often make the mistake of assuming that the same information will have the same effect on all users. This is not the case. How people interpret the information they provide is actually the sum of the knowledge they extract and keep.

Let’s take you for example. You may be reading this because you have an interest in knowledge management and you arrived here from Google. You will have a whole host of prior knowledge about “knowledge management” with which to compare my assertions and either agree, disagree or be ambivalent regarding each point. the sum of this assessment is the knowledge which you will take from it. On the other hand, someone who arrives here from my Twitter feed is unlikely to have this context of being a “knowledge management expert” and they will have a different assessment of the content.

Good learning systems (aha – new term) not only allow for these different user contexts, but react to them by using the information provided by the user to infer one of many possible “contexts” – and then deliver more appropriate information.

At no point do we deliver or manage “knowledge”. […]”


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