Tuesday 17 February 2009

Know-how management

Part of the confusion between Knowledge Management and Information Management is almost certainly the lack, in the English language, of any distinction between Know-How, and Know-What.

English is unusual in using the same word ("knowledge") for both of these forms of knowing. Other languages differentiate them - Savoir* and Connaitre in French, Kennen and Wissen in Germany, Kunne and Vite in Norwegian. My friend Adel tells me that Arabic clearly distinguishes between the two, in the Quran for example. And yet, he goes on to say, when Knowledge Management is translated into Arabic, the translation is always to "Know-What Management".

I think this misses the point. For me, knowledge management has always delivered its real value when applied to "Know-How" - to improving the competence of the organisation by giving people access to the knowledge they need to make the correct decisions. Managing "Know-What", on the other hand, gets very close to Information Management, or to Business Intelligence. Important, yes, but already covered by existing disciplines.

Caertainly whenever I use the term "Knowledge Management" I am referring to "Know-How Management;" management with the purpose of sustaining, building and deploying the know-how of the organisation. However as a direct result of a shortage of nouns in the English language, I am well aware that others use the same term to mean "Know-What Management" - the marshalling and presentation of facts and information.

It's no wonder the market is confused.

* I believe (and correct me if I am wrong) the French translate the phrase "Know-how" as "Savoir-faire", which in English idiom has connotations of being amazingly cool and capable. Which appeals to me.

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