Wednesday 26 February 2014

Knowledge and Know-how

DSC03875 by mike_troiano
DSC03875, a photo by mike_troiano on Flickr.
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. If Knowledge Management aims to support decision making, then the type of knowledge needed is Know-How.

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. We don't need to call this "Knowledge Management" as it already has a name.

Certainly whenever we in Knoco use the term "Knowledge Management" we are 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.


Ping-fa said...

>>>>>>>>>>>>>"Know-How Management;" management with the purpose of sustaining, building and deploying the know-how of the organisation.

Your perspective would be clearer for me if you didn't use the term you are defining in the definition.

Unknown said...

Good point, Nick!
I prefer to think, however, that KM does not need to segment its contribution only to what you called "know-how", just because we use information and knowledge (and even the more subtle "talent") to generate value in any business or organization.

Now, if we include the "know-why" (as we could call the more strategic knowledge) in the discussion, it gets even more interesting: should KM help organizations to learn, sistematize and share that level of knowledge (besides and beyond "know-how")?

In my point of view, YES!


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