Monday 11 April 2022

Where does Knowledge come from? (reprise)

This blog post is a reprise from the archives, and concerns the question of where Knowledge comes from.  

In most of the Knowledge Management training courses I run, I ask the question "where does knowledge come from?"

Always, every time, the first answer I get is "Experience - Knowledge comes from Experience".  "Knowledge comes from Information" is never the first answer. Maybe the second, or third, or fourth, but never the first.

If you don't believe me, try it yourself. Ask people "where does knowledge come from"? and see what they say.

In fact, as an experiment, I conducted an online poll I thought I would test this assertion, and I ran a quick poll in Linked-In. The question was "Where do you think Knowledge primarily comes from?", and the 4 options are shown in the picture below. 

  •  43% of people think it comes primarily from Experience 
  • 48% think it comes from Experience and from Information 
  • 6% think it comes comes primarily from Information 
  • Only one person thought it came from neither 

  • So why do we persevere with the Data/Information/Knowledge pyramid? You know what I mean - that common diagram, produced at the top of this post, that implies that knowledge comes from information, and that information comes from data. Only 6% of people would agree with this.

    We could in fact come up with a different pyramid, shown here, where experience leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to decisions, and decisions lead to action.

    The great thing about this version of the pyramid, is that action then leads back to experience. And if we can share the experience from many actions, we can build shared knowledge which others can use to make correct decisions.

    So the pyramids stack, as shown to the right.

    If you believe that knowledge comes from experience, and shared knowledge comes from shared experience, then your KM approach will be based on review and transfer of experience, connection of people, and conversation.

    This contrasts with approaches based on the Data/Information/Knowledge model, which can lead to Knowledge Management being seen as an extension of information management and data management, resulting in a belief that organising and aggregating information somehow turns it into knowledge.

    Instead of Knowledge Management being seen as an extension of information management, let's rather look at it as an approach of sharing experience in order to make better decisions and to take better actions.

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