Wednesday 19 October 2011

The value experience brings

Map readingMy recent blog post about the role of experience in knowledge management has generated quite a lot of comment.

 I made the point that information alone is not enough to create knowledge, and that knowledge is more usefully seen as coming primarily from experience than from information.

 Let me give you an example.

 I would like to provide you with a high-resolution gravity map over the Kalahari desert. This contains a vast amount of information. As additional information, I would like to give you some maps which show the trend of geological data taken from borehole samples in the area.

 Now I would like you to tell me the most likely place for a diamond mine. Based on your recommendation my investment company is going to make $1,000,000 decision to conduct a programme of drill holes, looking for the diamond bearing deposits.

 Could you tell me the best place to site that drilling programme?

 I suspect you couldn't.

 However there are people out there who could. They would have exactly the same information that you have, but they would be able to make the correct decision, and allow my investment company to take effective action.

So what do they have, that you don't?

 They have knowledge, and they have experience. The knowledge partly comes from theory, but it also comes from a vast amount of experience in looking for diamond mines; experience gained through a few successes, and from many failures over the years. This is the valuable stuff that we need to address through knowledge management; not the maps and the samples, but the experience, the heuristics, the judgement, the insight, and the ability to make million dollar decisions and take correct actions.

 The value from knowledge management comes not from saving time in looking for maps and looking for data and looking for documents and looking for information, but by making better decisions and taking better actions based on that information once you find it. In this case, not wasting a million dollars looking for a diamond mine in the wrong place.

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