KM Basic …

This is something which sometimes we lose sight of. This is why i thought of writing something which took us back to some of the basics, and also to get us thinking on where we are with respect to these basics.

The question is what is KM. 

This is a topic which invites a lot of discussion, basically because not many people understand the idea. Heres probably why … something i do whenever i am making a presentation about KM.

Ask yourself … whats the difference between:

  • Data
  • Information
  • Knowledge

Its usually quite easy to find the difference between data and information (we have all studied that at some point) but try to find out the difference between information and knowledge, and well … there is quite a bit of circular reasoning. Not quite easy to define knowledge without using the concept of knowledge, is it? Though my friend and colleague Mamatha Srirama tells me about Richard McDermott’s interesting paper … Anyway, the question is, if we dont understand knowledge, then how do we know how to define it? Which is why i like to work on a working definition of knowledge:

Knowledge is information or experience which can help you to do your work more effectively.

As you can see, this is not a suitable definition, but i like to use this as a working one, to help understand KM in the organizational perspective. But there, the interesting thing is, there is a thin line between information and knowledge, and at times i find it a little difficult to explain the difference between explicit knowledge and information (any convincing definitions, please post them). Without going into semantics, what emerges from here is that knowledge is something which exists in your head. This is because information is simply that … information, unless you are able to relate it to your work, which is when it becomes knowledge, and this process of relating is what makes it intangible. Experience, as we know, is intangible. So, knowledge, as a concept is intangible. So how do we manage it?

Which is why i think looking at KM as a form of facilitation is rather more apt in terms of definitions. So, if we look at Knowledge Facilitation, we find that the role of KM is essentially to get knowledge to the right people at the right time, in a way which is easy to discover. Simple, isnt it? Well … it is, till you try to do it. So why is it difficult? How many of us have heard the saying:

Knowledge is Power.

If you have heard the saying and believe in it, then there is a probability that you would be averse to sharing knowledge with others, because that essentially means letting go of some power which you would otherwise have. And it would be difficult to say that one doesnt believe this paradigm at all, probably all do, to some extent or the other. This logic was true in a world which was uneven with huge knowledge disparities among people, enabling people with knowledge to wield it as power. But in a flattening world, this isnt necessarily so.

Question i ask of you …

When was the last time you wanted to learn something new, and had no way to find out where you could learn more about the topic.

Chances are, all you had to do was go to google, and you had access to a lot of resources. I remember reading about the Turing Machine, and wanting to find out more. All i had to do was search on google, and the first result that came out was from wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an interesting example of what i am talking about. Built with contributions from people all across the world, it has content which is more than twice the size of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. And this is the power of sharing knowledge. And in this world, the new paradigm for knowledge is:

Knowledge shared is knowledge squared.

And this is the paradigm which Knowledge Management needs to bring about.


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