A good friend, Bob Buckman, one of the early pioneers of KM replied to me to make the point that there are places for both descriptors. With his permission, this is the central text of Bob's email:
What struck me was the conflict that exists in some people between the terms Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management. Personally, I think they describe two different objectives in the organization. I will try and explain:
The label Knowledge Management was created by C. Jackson Grayson who was founder and head of APQC when they put on the first major conference on Knowledge that was held in Houston in the 90's. I got to know Jack through one of my Board members and he attended the second Knowledge conference put on by McKinsey and Brook Manville. There was about 50 people at the conference which we held in the fall. In the following spring APQC put on their conference with about 400 in attendance. The term Knowledge Management was created to describe what we were doing or trying to do. Jack felt it was a good descriptor that they could also build courses around dealing with productivity, etc. (APQC stands for American Productivity and Quality Center) If you were interested in how to manage knowledge for maximum benefit to the corporation, then they could help you do it. They still hold the best KM conferences in the world every spring. I gave one of the keynote addresses at this conference.
We had a problem in our company at the time that needed addressing. We had knowledge on how to apply our products in multiple locations around the world but our people had never met each other. We had been sending experts around the world to each location to bring and get knowledge on how best to use our products, but the process was not fast enough to meet the needs of the customers. We had to figure out how to get them to share knowledge as needed and where needed. To do that we had to put in systems that connected people together. And, when I came back from the conference at APQC, I told everybody we were going to do Knowledge Management. And, I got a lot of blank stares and the usual non-committal response. The more I used the term Knowledge Management, the more I got poor responses and resistance.
I took the problem to Dr. Rueben Harris who was head of Systems Management at the Naval Post Graduate School and also head of Research for the Tom Peters Group at the time. Rueben's response was that he thought it was a cultural perception issue. So, we change the descriptor of what we were trying to do to Knowledge Sharing instead of Knowledge Management and we got immediate acceptance and the rest is history. It turned out that when we used the term Knowledge Management, they thought we were going to manage what was in people's heads. Changing the descriptor was instrumental in achieving success.
Personally, I think there are places for both descriptors. If you are trying to manage knowledge, then Knowledge Management is perfectly fine. If, you are trying to get people to share knowledge, then I think you would be wise to use the term Knowledge Sharing. We need to remember what we are trying to do and not get hung up on trying to put everything under one descriptor.
Credit: Bob Buckman
A BIG thanks for the clarification Bob.