Blog Post

The nonsense of 'knowledge management'

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 20 October 2002



The nonsense of 'knowledge management'
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Posted DateSunday 20 October 2002 10:27 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesKnowledge Management
PeopleSébastien Paquet , Tom D. Wilson 
CountryUnited Kingdom

Thanks to Sébastien Paquet's weblog for pointing me to this kick-ass article as he calls it on KM by Professor Tom Wilson of the University of Sheffield. Its conclusion is that KM is a fad:
"The inescapable conclusion of this analysis of the 'knowledge management' idea is that it is, in large part, a management fad, promulgated mainly by certain consultancy companies, and the probability is that it will fade away like previous fads."
I would agree with Tom Wilson that most of what is called KM today is a re-labelling of other material - principally Information Management by software vendors and management consultancies.

But personally I believe that KM is anything but a fad. It is not going to go away and over time will evolve and mature into a fundamentally new and effective inter-personal discipline. Note: I do not say management discipline .

To me KM is about how we as individuals perceive the world, think and behave! But then if that is the case it needs a new label


Examines critically the origins and basis of 'knowledge management', its components and its development as a field of consultancy practice. Problems in the distinction between 'knowledge' and 'information' are explored, as well as Polanyi's concept of 'tacit knowing'. The concept is examined in the journal literature, the Web sites of consultancy companies, and in the presentation of business schools. The conclusion is reached that 'knowledge management' is an umbrella term for a variety of organizational activities, none of which are concerned with the management of knowledge. Those activities that are not concerned with the management of information are concerned with the management of work practices, in the expectation that changes in such areas as communication practice will enable information sharing.
I keep going back to this article ... there are some fundamental clarifications of what certain aspects of KM are or are not about. I've just been reading the section on tacit knowledge and Tom's distinction between tacit knowledge and implicit knowledge. To my way of thinking what he has to say is spot on!

This important distinction reminds me of something that those of you who know me know that I am always rattling on about - "until we can all agree a definition of knowledge and distinguish it from information then how the hell are we ever going to be able to manage it!

How many times have you heard a speaker at a KM conference start his or her talk with the words "I'm not going to try to define knowledge as I know we would never agree!" My response "Humbug - until we do we don't stand a cat-in-hell's chance of talking any sense!"

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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