Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What is knowledge?

My biggest challenge? Defining my job around the campfire. In explaining it to folks, I became clearer with some things. Here's some ideas:

The reason knowledge management has become so important is that there is too much information out there. We're still coming to grips with the internet, media, and how people use information. When I was growing up you went to the library, searched indices and the card catalog. You'd find a handful of books and skim through them. Now I can search from my desk and get information from around the world. You can get thousands of hits, and the skimming takes place in the paragraph provided by the Google search. Very rarely do I ever touch an actual printed book. Concise summaries are becoming as important as a book. As an organization we're finding that people want options, concise summaries but also the book for when they are really interested in a topic.

What is knowledge? Is it knowing everything about a subject area including the theory? Knowing where to find the information or who knows the answer? Knowing the one nugget of information necessary to make a good decision? The answer could be yes to any of these questions, depending on the situation.

Take for example the definition of the term knowledge. I've seen whole books about what is knowledge. Most definitions are 1-2 paragraphs long. Definitions often include descriptors like people, processes and technology. Some define how information is to be used like "in making a decision." In adding descriptors or modifiers, do we dilute the message being sent?

For my organization, we've defined knowledge as "usable information." Another definition of knowledge I like is "actionable information." If folks want more, I'm happy to pile on the detail, but to me the knowledge is the core message (i.e. remove the details).

It's a Monday (actually Tuesday after a holiday) so I may not be totally coherent at this moment. I will explore some more of these ideas over the next few days.


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I like it (usable information). Short and sweet!

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