Thursday, 21 February 2013


stock and flow - one of the dualities of knowledge management


Coins and House I wrote the text below as a response to a Linked-In question, but thought it might make a good blog post as well. The question was whether Knowledge Management was dead, and should be replaced by Knowledge Flow. Here are my thoughts

Knowledge Management, like so much else in life, is a case of "both/and" rather than "either/or". It is one of the dualities of KM, of which there is a short list;


  • Stock and Flow
  • Connect and Collect
  • Explicit and Tacit
  • Push and Pull


Knowledge Management, taken as a whole, addresses both Stock and Flow; both Connect and Collect, both Explicit and Tacit, both Push and Pull. Stock without flow is wasted effort, and leads to bloated databases nobody uses. Flow without stock leads to ephemeral knowledge and constant reinvention of the wheel and relearning of lessons. If you use my analogy of a Central heating system for Knowledge Management, Flow represents the pipes that carry hot water around the house, while Stock represents the hot water tank that provides the repository of hot water. Without pipes, the hot water doesn't reach the rooms. Without a hot water tank, the water that reaches the rooms is cold.  A central heating system needs both, and more besides (the pump, the control panel, the thermostat, the radiators, etc.).

Asking whether flow is more important than stock is like asking whether your left leg is more important, while walking or running, than your right leg. A walker needs both, and more besides ( the eyes, the brain, the hindbrain etc). Similarly KM needs stock and flow, and more besides (governance, engagement, culture etc.).


1 comment:

  1. Hi Nick,
    When knowledge would be an object a property would be intellect. Since humans are the only natural phenomena with intellect, knowledge must be a property of humans :-)
    My KM interpretation is here:
    https://plus.google.com/u/1/105975000925109702689/posts/PQXbV27Tk6T
    Grtz, Jaap

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