Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

This posting was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady whose job responsibilities include Knowledge Management in an alternative energy company. We explored, and brought together, a range of the relevant terms and disciplines involved with knowledge acquisition, assimilation, retention and application. Upon my return, and reflecting on the unresolved parts of our discussion, I scheduled an interview with Knowledge. This was more difficult than I thought, even though I had long-ago attributed traits of anthropomorphism to her. Finding Knowledge was easy. Getting dedicated time to interview her was the difficult part. Her? Of course, Knowledge is feminine in gender. Few men really understand more than Facts, the younger brother of Knowledge.

Our Interview with Knowledge
My first question was the title of this posting. She asserted that “No one ever asked me!” She expressed concerns that many of those purporting to “manage knowledge” do have some insights, but most do not understand the entire story. She pointed out that Knowledge is only one member of her large family of Intelligence, and some of her senior siblings are even less-understood than she. And, she asserted her deep concern that there are whole industries, educational systems, software support, and even certifications based on just her part of her family. While some, such as Peter Senge, come close to deep understanding, many of his followers only grasp the obvious parts. And, especially disconcerting to Knowledge was her belief that man has had few new insights about her for several thousand years, since the illuminations in China, India, Greece and Egypt. The interview, while wide-ranging and deep in content, was a firehose blast of perspective, all absorbed in a 15 second interview. Ms. Knowledge had other pressing commitments elsewhere.

The Taxonomy of Data
The interview led me to reflect on my own journey toward Knowledge and the rest of her family many years ago. In the late 1970s I performed presentations to various professional groups. One of my favorite presentations, especially for groups involving data and information systems, was The Taxonomy of Data. I did not invent the concept; undoubtedly I had read something in the mid ’70s that inspired me.

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