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The role of information in knowledge sharing

Denham Grey comes with two thought-provoking posts: The KM spectrum and IM — KM.

The first one talks about “the spectrum from knowledge creation (awareness, learning, community) to intellectual capital (knowledge assets, branding, knowledge exchanges)”, so you can think where you would position yourself (and I guess most of us here in blogosphere are sharing “knowledge creation” side with Denham ;).

The second one is about distinguishing information management from knowledge management:

As we get to know each other, you will come to appreciate I’m quite a radical ‘knowledge’ person. Most folks in the KM business do not worry too much about what they are dealing with, i.e., information or knowledge. I think the IM — KM difference is indeed a critical distinction. Folks that have a good understanding of the difference are better positioned to see emergent knowledge related opportunities in the workplace and market.

This one is more challenging as it is about the issue often labelled “let’s not discuss the difference between information and knowledge in this meeting (paper, project, etc.) because if we start we don’t get things done” 🙂

I think the most difficult thing is not distinguishing “knowledge creation” and “intellectual capital” ends of the spectrum and even not in agreeing that information systems should be not sold under KM label. It is more challenging to come up with fine-grained distinctions in thinking of people sharing the same end of all these spectrums (e.g. Denham and me think differently about community vs. individual perspective in learning).

I believe that there is more value in finding out the role of information management in KM, rather then saying that one is not the other. I’ll share my comment to Denham’s post here to explain where I stand:

I guess the problem is that KM has to do something with information next to knowledge.

I believe that knowledge doesn’t exist “out there”, it is always bounded to people. I also believe that knowledge is not shared (=I give it to you and you have it), but (re)constructed. One, who shares, helps (often unintentionally) another person to learn.

From this perspective, no tech tool contains knowledge: there is no knowledge in weblogs, wikis, on-line community tools, e-mails and even in the air when we talk. I tend to think about “sharing knowledge” in technology-mediated settings as about sharing information with an intention of being understood. So, my weblog post is “information”, but in a way it is information that it easier to “convert” into knowledge at your end. The funny thing for me is that many people call this “easy to convert into knowledge information” knowledge. I do as well and it adds to the confusion 🙂

For me, on the learning side, knowledge starts with information, with ability to find, organise and process information bits while constructing knowledge. Sometimes a bit of information serves as a clue that we need to recall what we know or as a missing connection to weave our “half-insights” into knowledge. Of course, personal IM is not the only one of the components that we need for learning (think of relations and trust, shared language to start with, abilities to learn and to “share” in a way that helps others to learn…)

In my own definition to a certain degree KM includes rethinking and reusing IM for the “higher level goal”, in the context of understanding what role information flows play in knowledge flows.

A bit later: I think the story from Jack Vinson about personal knowledge/information management is a good illustration of my point about close connections between information and knowledge.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/02/01.html#a1063; comments are here.

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