Is Knowledge Management ‘Nonsense’?

The term, “knowledge management,” is misleading and imprecise, according to T. D. Wilson:

‘Knowledge’ is defined as what we know: knowledge involves the mental processes of comprehension, understanding and learning that go on in the mind and only in the mind, however much they involve interaction with the world outside the mind, and interaction with others. 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’ . . .

Thus, data and information may be managed, and information resources may be managed, but knowledge (i.e., what we know) can never be managed, except by the individual knower and, even then, only imperfectly.

Wilson goes on to quote Karl Erik Sveiby, an early KM pioneer (The source page for the quote is no longer active.):

I don’t believe knowledge can be managed. Knowledge Management is a poor term, but we are stuck with it, I suppose. “Knowledge Focus” or “Knowledge Creation” (Nonaka) are better terms, because they describe a mindset, which sees knowledge as activity not an object.

The term that I would ideally employ for the work that I do, is ‘knowledge activation.’  My concern is with approaching any new organizational structure, and especially, technology, with an eye towards how it engages useful participation by people (not just employees, but we can discuss that another time).  People are engaged, yes, by clear information structures, but also by values, ideas, missions, etc.

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