Thursday, 4 May 2017

The importance of terminology in KM

Each organisation has its own culture, and the terms you use in KM need to fit that culture.

Every organisation that works with knowledge needs some form of Knowledge Management, but the words they use to describe component elements of KM may be very different. They will choose terms that fit the culture of the organisation, and reject terms (and often concepts) that sound wrong, or which jar against their cultural language.

Let me give you a couple of examples. 

  • A rules-driven, "hard engineering" culture may appoint a Chief Knowledge Officer, who determines a Knowledge Management Policy. Accountability for knowledge is delegated to Technical Authorities who gather Knowledge in a Process Database, codify it into Standard Operating Procedures, and develop and share knowledge through Process Delivery Networks.  Knowledge is supported in the business through KM SPOCs (single points of contact). 

  • A softer "creative" culture may use different words. They may have a Head of Knowledge, who coordinates co-creation of a Knowledge Charter. Different knowledge topics are supported by Knowledge Stewards, who gather knowledge in a Creative Commons, codify it into Knowledge Nuggets, and develop and share knowledge through Learning Communities. Knowledge is supported in the business through Knowledge Activists, or Knowledge Gardeners.

The roles may actually be very similar, the processes may be the same, and the overall KM Framework may operate in a very similar way in both cultures, but the terminology has to be very different if the words, and the concepts they describe, are to be accepted. 

If you try introducing Knowledge Activists in a hard engineering culture, or Standard Operating Procedures in a soft creative culture, it will go down like a lead balloon.


Choose KM terms that fit the culture, and you will find that thay are far more easily accepted.

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