Friday, 3 February 2012


Cats and Dogs revisited


In this post, I used the analogy of cats and dogs to show how Knowledge Management and Information Management are still being confused and conflated.  Here's a more recent example.

Tell me whether this makes sense
What we need is a new approach to dog ownership based on how people in corporations actually own cats. The next generation of dog ownership tools will not only get the right cats to the owners who need them, but they will look after those cats for everyone in the organization. And they will present those cats in ways that will help businesses get to insight more quickly.
If you read this, you would think that the writer had got their dogs and their cats mixed up, right? And that perhaps they are talking about cat ownership, not dog ownership?

So if you read this in Forbes magazine, under the title of "The Evolution of Knowledge Management", what would you think?

What we need is a new approach to knowledge management based on how people in corporations actually use information. The next generation of knowledge management tools will not only get the right information to the users who need it, but they will compile measure and curate that information for everyone in the organization. And they will present that information in ways that will help businesses get to insight more quickly.

So what's going on here? Is Knowledge Management just about how people use information? Is that the Evolution they mention in the title? Has Knowledge Management evolved to become a synonym for Information Management after all? Or is there still a massive confusion between the terms?

The quoted article is headlined "Knowledge Management" but uses the noun "knowledge" only 3 times in the article (excluding when they are defining "knowledge management"), vs 23 uses of the noun "information."  I would suggest that if you replaced "knowledge management" with "information management," the article would make more sense. Just as an article that mentioned cats 23 times and dogs only 3 times, would be about cat ownership rather than dog ownership.

For me, Knowledge management is more than moving and presenting information. It's about human knowing. Its about how understanding and insight is passed from person to person, and developed and grown within a community. Information can play a part, but not all information is knowledge, and not all knowledge is information. If Knowledge Management evolves into the management of Information, then the value of KM has been completely lost.

Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is useless, unless they have the knowledge to understand it, and the knowledge to take the right action.

Knowledge management is what gives them the knowledge to act on the information they receive.

3 comments:

LaVonne Blondell said...

Thank you very much for this article. I am currently pursuing a Master's degree and when conducting research on knowledge management much of the literature focuses on information management and IT tools when I believe it's really a system rooted in human interaction and exchanges Nice to have my view confirmed by an expert practitioner.

LaVonne Blondell said...

Thank you very much for this post. I am currently pursuing a Master's degree and when conducting research on knowledge management much of the literature focuses on information management and IT tools when I believe it's really a system rooted in human interaction and exchanges Nice to have my view confirmed by an expert practitioner.

Nick Milton said...

Much of the literature that comes from the USA, certainly. I think there are definite varations from country to country.

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