So what is all this knowledge anyway?

I have to confess to having struggling with most discussions about knowledge management. Much of the conversation makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that assumptions about the value of process and meetings make me feel uncomfortable and I found myself wondering "What is all this knowledge that we get so much value from "capturing" "extracting" or even "harvesting"?

I thought back to my days as a "real" manager when I was responsible for around fifty staff and involved in day to day management of real work. I rarely if ever was called upon to write about what I did or what I knew. Most of the documents I wrote were formal reporting, business information, that if it was true it was only so for a brief period of time and it's relevance decayed faster than a snowball in hell. I didn't write opinion pieces or analysis and the day to day colour that made my decisions possible was never recorded.

In contrast, and although not perfect or comprehensive, the "knowledge" that I have burbled about in our blogs, wikis and forums over the past four years will leave a much more navigable path to enable others to understand what challenged me, inspired me or even bored me. In other words I will leave behind a legacy that will give others at least a rough idea of what was involved in doing my job.

I was recently talking to a group involved in delivering knowledge management services when one of the younger guys there suggested that if they all started blogging they would make their own knowledge much more accessible than it is at the moment. Mischievously I asked how much of what they knew about managing knowledge was captured currently. How much they write up, document and "manage" what they know? You can guess the answer .....

So in the context of time consuming knowledge management practices and expensive document management applications I repeat the question - which is, I hope, neither naive nor disrespectful. What is all this knowledge that we get so much value from "capturing" "extracting" or even "harvesting"?

More importantly perhaps - what's the point?

[Originally posted to the actKM Discussion List]

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