In researching this paper I can’t seem to get away from constantly comparing the difference between what is knowledge and what is information. As a result I continue to look at Knowledge Management synonymously with Information Management. Or rather the terms of knowledge and information of which knowledge is constantly used synonymously with information. As pointed out in many articles this is often the case, and just leads to confusion of what I think Knowledge Management really is about.
Furthermore, I am still stuck in the belief that you can manage information but not really the corresponding knowledge that an individual can derive from the information. This is why I found when reading the assigned reading material that T. D. Wilson’s article probably influenced me more that the others. As a result I will try to explain Information Management comparatively with Knowledge Management and answer the posed question and how I think Knowledge Management should be broached with top managers. What is Information Management?
According to Wikipedia, “Information management (IM) is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences (Wikipedia Information, 2010). ” This can of course be information of many types and can be stored in data form, written form, video form, and many other forms. Typically in the case of IM this information is stored in Information Management systems such as databases, collaboration portals, report tools, and many other types of systems.
Information Management is used to store information so that users of the information can gain knowledge from the information as a whole toward an end goal whether that goal is to generate sales for a company or become an expert in widgets. Information is the basis for knowledge. Without it, knowledge doesn’t exist. On the other hand, according to Wikipedia, “Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences.
Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice (Wikipedia Knowledge, 2010). ” The problem I have with this is that you may be able to capture knowledge in written form, for example, but knowledge in this form is only information for another to use to complete a process through instruction and does not imply they understand the information that led to the conclusion. Can it be a sharing of explicit knowledge?
Probably; according to Thampi, “Explicit knowledge (sometimes referred to as formal knowledge) is formal knowledge that can be packaged as information (Thampi, 2008). ” Emphasis should be given to “packaged as information”. He also implies that tacit knowledge (personal knowledge) over time can become explicit once the person matures it into new knowledge and documents it in some form. Knowledge implies understanding of information and knowledge in written form is just that, information. I don’t believe just because the person can read it that knowledge of the underlying information is imparted.
According to Li and Song, the relationship between IM and KM consists of “the two having mutually reinforcing effects” and “they both attach great importance to information and IT (Li and Song, 2009). ” They state under this these relationships that “Even though KM and IM have different emphases the purpose produced is basically identical” and that “Knowledge cannot exist without information because it provides raw material and source for knowledge innovation and the pursuit of KM goals (Li and Song, 2009). ” Almost sounds like they are synonymous!
I think this is the basis for many of T. D. Wilson’s arguments. He states that “for the fields of information science and information systems, it is clearly necessary for us to distinguish between ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’. Failure to do so results in one or other of these terms standing as a synonym for the other, thereby confusing anyone who wishes to understand what each term signifies (Wilson, 2002). ” The result is people believing Knowledge Management is one and the same with Information Management.
The capture of knowledge in written form, as I described above, does not imply knowledge of the underlying information to the person reading it. Wilson further comments on this thought by stating, “Whenever we wish to express what we know, we can only do so by uttering messages of one kind or another – oral, written, graphic, gestural or even through ‘body language’. Such messages do not carry ‘knowledge’, they constitute ‘information’, which a knowing mind may assimilate, understand, comprehend and incorporate into its own knowledge structures (Wilson, 2002). In other words, not everyone reading it will gain knowledge, so maybe Knowledge Management isn’t the right term to use.
I also like his argument that everything outside the mind in essence can be defined as data if it contains simple facts, or information, if the data is in a context of relevance to the recipient, and that collections of messages such as papers, e-mails messages, letters in an archive, etc. are generally regarded as information resources, “thus, data and information may be managed, and information resources may be managed, but knowledge (i. . , what we know) can never be managed, except by the individual knower and, even then, only imperfectly (Wilson, 2002). ” I believe Wilson’s arguments are pretty convincing and his research paper is exhaustive and nearly exhausted me! All of the comments and arguments above are not really what this assignment is about but are what helped me draw my conclusions to answer the posed question. Is it a good idea to use the term ‘knowledge management’ in conversations with top managers in our days?
I don’t know that even with all the chatter about KM that it’s known well enough by all managers to necessarily use the term in conversations. Top managers may not have enough information about the KM concepts to be comfortable talking about it without some “knowledge” or expertise on the matter. I think you need to approach the conversations in terms of desired outcomes. After all, knowledge is information applied toward a desired outcome. I believe anytime you talk to your boss or her boss etc. you define your terms upfront.
For example; “We are working on a KM solution that specifically captures the process call takers use to enter sales orders so that we can reduce sales process times. ” Although this only captures information for call takers to use to achieve the outcome, and does not necessarily imply they gain knowledge from the information used to capture the process, it clarifies KM in terms top managers can understand and in reverse implies you are providing knowledge to the call takers. Provide the specifics and keep these types of conversations focused on outcomes.
The KM concept is clouded by misinterpretation, ambiguous meanings, and directionless efforts. If you define KM by the desired outcomes then yes, you can have an intelligent conversation with top managers. If I fall into the trap of letting someone else define KM in their own mind, based on what I know about KM, I will simply contribute to the ongoing directionless efforts already occurring. Other terms I would consider using that add clarity to the conversation include process, documentation, repeatability, uniform results, and intended outcomes.
These terms change the conversation by changing the focus. You can still have a KM conversation by framing KM as the documented processes that provide repeatable uniform results and intended outcomes. This is a long way of saying KM should be used as a conversation starting point but not an end point. Throw out the KM catch phrase then say “now that I have your attention let’s talk about all the stuff that makes KM work”. While there seems to be relevance to the KM argument there also seems to be a lack of clarity and information on the KM process that distinguishes it in less synonymous terms from IM.
Something in my opinion needs to change that clearly states the intent of KM that clarifies exactly what it does; capture implied knowledge based on individuals knowledge and experiences. I believe it is more of a process or experience management technique that falls under IM and would be less confusing to people as well as eliminate synonymous meanings. I do not believe knowledge can be managed but information, processes, and experience can.
Bogorad stated, “By definition, the intent of Knowledge Management is to discover, retain, and disseminate locked-in knowledge across the organization (Bogorad, 2010). ” In my opinion the terms locked-in experience or locked-in processes work much better than knowledge. Similarly, Thampi states, “Processing data can be performed by machine, but only the human mind can process knowledge or even information (Thampi, 2008. ). ” What I believe he should have said is; “Processing data and information can be performed by machine, but only the human mind can process information to develop knowledge. ”