The evolution of Knowledge Management? No, time to evolve the D-I-K-W hierarchy!

Started by David Griffiths on
21 Feb 2013 at 11:59

The problem with KM is that it has become a catchall for technology conversations that, being honest, are nothing more than information management systems that, in our opinion, are arbitrarily elevated to knowledge status through the hierarchy of Data-Information-Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom.  So, in the name of knowledge, get ready to spend more money on technology in the name of KM!

Take the latest article from Forbes:  The Evolution of Knowledge Management – a guest post written by Greg Merkle, VP of Product Strategy and Design at Dow Jones. The shift between information and knowledge, as is the case in Merkle’s article, is all too often unexplained and taken for granted.  I appreciate his sentiment that people (in Merkle’s case: Compass, Connector, Captain, Miner Scout, yet another taxonomy by the way - my view on KM taxonomies here), are taking the action, but the focus almost always seem to be on the technology solutions that are presented in such a way as to blur the line between information and knowledge – the terms are interchanged as if to convince us that they mean the same thing….for another example, see this article by Roan Yong (apparently KM is probably dead…). In doing so they lead us to believe that Information Management is Knowledge management.  well, it isn’t.  For example, Merkle opens by stating:

“The next generation of knowledge management tools will not only get the right information to the users who need it, but they will compile measure and curate that information for everyone in the organisation…”

What is it then, information or knowledge?  Where do we make the transition form one to the other?  If we agree that people activate information, blending it with their own understanding, experience, education, then perhaps we can agree that Merkle is actually constraining KM by promoting yet another Information Management system.  Also, perhaps it is just me, but his proposition sounds a bit like centralised decision-making, control of the norm…How will this bring about the variety required for the biggest challenge facing organisations today, innovation?

This is old news for those that have heard me talk, but it really is time to move on; the scope of KM is so much more than that suggested by articles such as this. It has to be time to consider a change…let me elaborate using a formula from Carnall (1995):

EC = D x K x V

EC is the energy for change – D is dissatisfaction – K is knowledge of what is needed – V is the vision for the intended outcome.

The energy for change is building…look at the dissatisfaction being expressed in our field.

Knowledge of what is needed – well, look at the KM M-Model… we know the drivers and we know how to respond

Vision for what is needed – It depends on the context, but it is about innovation, creativity, decision-making, resilience, competitive advantage; the list goes on.  But, above all, it is about people being exposed to variety in order to become more adaptive and to innovate!

All too often I find myself pointing the finger of frustration at the Data – Information – Knowledge – Understanding – Wisdom hierarchy; or people like Nonaka, who tried to get us to believe that tacit knowledge could be made explicit and therefore could be treated like any other capital resource; or the people who speak the language of Lean, ‘the right knowledge to the right person at the right time’ — Sound a bit like Merkle’s message?

If not D-I-K-U-W, then what? I don’t believe in attacking a problem without coming to the table with a solution.  Below is the K-Coupling Model, which can be found at the heart of the KM M-Model, and  is presented for discussion as an alternative to D-I-K-W.

For me, this is about energy for change and it is time that we either re-brand our field to reflect the true nature of the knowledge driven challenges facing organisations today, or we need to continue to challenge people who persist in persuading us that information is knowledge. Either way, it is time for change.

Creative Commons License
The K-Coupling by David Griffiths is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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