Thursday, April 09, 2009

Common Myths About Knowledge That Hold Us Back

At the end of our Edmonton Km Network meeting last week, Stu Muir, Tri-Global Solutions, asked a really good question. "What are the common myths (about knowledge management) that are holding us back?"

Some in the earlier posts in this blog address some of the misconceptions that get in the way of encouraging and coaching really good information and know-how sharing. But the diagram above offers up a simplistic and ultimately dangerous model, The Knowledge Hierarchy.

David Snowden challenges this model in his blog "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement". And bless his soul, I have seen where Larry Prusack referenced this hierachy.

Every time I have a conversation about knowledge management, this model usually shows up. I have heard Deputy Ministers and CEOs reference it. It is popular because it is simple and it is dangerous because it is too simplistic. When Peter Drucker introduced the concept of a "knowledge worker", he wasn't thinking that the organization also would move up this hierarchy to become a "Wise Organization".

Data is translated into information. Information moves up to knowledge. Knowledge coupled with experience becomes wisdom.

To see the fallacy of the model, add "management" to the end of each of these words and then ask the question: "Can you actually manage it?"

Data management, yes and for most organizations, absolutely essential. Information management, certainly some information and not easy. Knowledge management, critical knowledge and hard to do. Wisdom Management, who wants the title "Director of Wisdom Management"??

Let's cut to the chase. All your customers and clients are interested in is really good information (that they can use for making a decision). They don't care about your know-how or what you know about. Really the only person who does is your supervisor. But your customers and clients rate your expertise on whether you provide really good information.

Really good information requires the sieve of the expert's know-how. Understand this and then you will start to see where you can help staff and the organization generate and share important information.

Please leave The Knowledge Hierarchy outside the door when you talk to your Executive about knowledge management to improve critical information sharing. While this hierarchy may seem to be helpful in arguing for a knowledge management strategy, remember this. All they are truly interested in is how your initiative will help the organization generate and then share critical, strategic information.

If we must discuss knowledge, recall what we know and don't know. "We don't know what we need to know until we need to know it." That is the challenge for individuals and organizations and no amount of data to information to knowledge to wisdom is going to solve that.

1 comment:

Stu Muir said...

I agree with David Snowden that the development of good or at least better judgement is largely experiential. Hopefully we can learn from others' poor judgement as well as our own.

When I strive to help my clients grow their wisdom in a certain domain it certainly is not a transfer of wisdom (lucky for them). It is helping them determine how to use and act on the information and knowledge they have while recognizing the limits and imperfections of their information and knowledge.

I wonder how Dr. Deming's "System of profound knowledge" would illuninate our understanding.