Human Knowledge


I wrote recently about some of the messages which came out of KM Asia.  What i find interesting about these messages are two things. One is that the concerns which are raised there seem to be quite common, or at least are more or less similar to the ones being faced by KM practitioners in India, and another is that some of the problems which knowledge managers seem to be facing today are the same as the ones maybe a few years back, which means that basically the appreciation for knowledge-sharing hasnt changed much in organizations even given the enthusiasm that organizations seem to be having for concepts like social computing, and even e2.0 which is something i believe to be something far down the road for an organization to implement. What this means is that while at the organziation level there might be an understanding that the organization needs to evolve, this need doesnt seem to be shared at the individual level.

One of the messages which came out of KM Asia which i think we dont look at enough is:

It is important to focus not just on knowledge stocks but knowledge flows, advised David, since human knowledge is inherently messy (and process people find it hard to deal with this!).

While its true that process folks find it a little difficult to handle this kind of messy knowledge, it is also true that more and more, people are coming to accept this view of human knowledge as being messy, which would mean that managers (including the process folks) would do good to accept this reality. The reason why i say this being reality is the book i am reading these days … Chaos, by James Gleick. Since i am myself trying to understand Chaos Theory, i believe i am not the right person writing about it, but there are some aspects which i think are quite easily linked to the world of organizations, more so to the role of knowledge in the way organizations work. This is because just like chaos theory seems to be about the unpredictable, KM also is, to my mind, in a realm which is similar, where its very difficult to predict not just knowledge, but also how knowledge flows and knowledge-sharing happens. This is because knowledge stocks and knowledge flows both seem to be in a realm where patterns are rich and to a large extent unpredictable. In other words, knowledge stocks and flows dont follow mathematical equations.

What i found quite interesting is:

Unpredictability … generated complexity: richly organized patterns, sometimes stable and sometimes unstable, sometimes finite and sometimes infinite, but always with the fascination of living things.

Read this closely and you see a similarity to the way knowledge is being more and more seen. Knowledge stocks are unknown because it is almost impossible to create their inventory (because we get to know what we know when we need to know it) and knowledge flows are unpredictable. If we take these similarities and try to explore the rest of this then we may come across some things interesting. That unpredictability and, by parallel, knowledge-sharing, create a rich tapestry of complexity and patterns which might not be discernible by themselves but look at them over a period of time and you can get to make some sense out of those.

Can we read more into this similarity? Could this similarity be taken to a point where one could build a connection between the science and the theory? Please do post your thoughts, maybe we could develop something out of this.

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One Comment on “Human Knowledge”

  1. […] derives from, and contributes to, other parts of the web. As i have written about the complexity of knowledge sharing, and about scientific discovery, the process of creating and sharing knowledge is not as linear as […]


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