Updated: 10/6/2002; 9:26:00 PM.
Stand Up Eight
Links and musings from an expatriate humanist in the land of Technology...

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Knowledge management and Instructional Design. Knowledge repositories are not the driving problem in knowledge management.

H.G. Wells on Knowledge Management. H.G. Wells recognized the need for KM as early as 1937. He advocated for a Permanent World Encyclopaedia in a speech that included this quotation:

An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today; knowledge that would probably suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but it is dispersed and unorganized. We need a sort of mental clearing house for the mind: a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared.

~H.G. Wells
The Brain: Organization of the Modern World

[excited utterances]

Gordon Dickson offered a similar vision in his book The Final Encyclopedia. He offered a notion of a single repository of all human knowledge as a route to understanding what was "at the back of the human head." Actually, it's a fairly common concept in a number of good science fiction novels.

What's good in a fictional setting, however, only serves to confuse the issue when you're trying to make something practical happen in the real world. The myth that all these stories perpetuate is that the relevant problem is collecting and organizing the knowledge. As important as library science is to coping with a world of information overload and data glut, it's not the most important, or even the first, problem in knowledge management that needs to be solved.

The first problem that needs to be solved is helping knowledge workers understand how knowledge they don't already possess from experience might be relevant to solving their problem at hand. All the well-organized repositories in the world won't be relevant until an individual knowledge worker decides they need to turn somewhere else for help.

[McGee's Musings]

The goal of knowledge management is "what?" It seems to me that the goal of knowledge management is to change knowledge into information. It is possible to manage knowledge, and it is possible to use information. I have no problem with the ideas of knowledge management and KLogs. In fact, I kind of like them. My question, maybe someone can send me a link to help, is how do you turn the knowledge into information via learning? My background is in instructional design, so maybe this is a natural question for me to ask. I see the instructional design process as having a large potential impact on the issues of knowledge management. I am still trying to wrap my head around this intersection of knowledge, information, learning, and instruction. I see them together complimenting each other, but I am working on how to produce clarity at this intersection.

[Scott Adams: Instructional Design]

I really need more time to sit down and write than I have at the moment, so I'll post a reminder to myself and try to get back to this later. The distinction may be trivial, but my understanding is that knowledge management attempts to turn information (fairly raw data) into knowledge (applicable learning). I, too, come to knowledge management from an instructional design background. In some ways, I've begun to believe that as important as the tools of knowledge management are, the most important (and most challenging) hurdle to jump is getting a "knowledge worker"(someone whose job it is to filter complex arrays of information, extract relevant chunks, combine them with other chunks (or new ideas) to create "value") into the mindset that any knowledge management tool requires. Figuring out how to capture, annotate, and store chunks of information so as to increase its potential energy is a huge endeavor. A system or tool may have its own workflow, but unless the individual has internalized the process, the following of a script will fail to extract deep value.

Any system that is flexible enough to deal with unexpected queries in the future must be fairly messy on the front end. If you knew exactly what you were going to do with each "chunk" as you recorded it, building a cataloging system would probably be straightforward. I believe the value of a dynamic knowledge management system comes from the ability to look back over past entries for "meaningful" data, where the value is defined by the ever-changing context.

OK, I've got to run help put my kids to bed, so I'll have to come back to this later. Also, I hate cluttering up people's aggregator with such a long message. Maybe I'll have to look into providing a truncated RSS feed...

6:55:11 PM    comment []

© Copyright 2002 Dale Pike.
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blogchalk: Dale/Male/31-35. Lives in United States/Charlotte/University City and speaks English. Spends 80% of daytime online. Uses a Faster (1M+) connection.