Thanks for your message Tom,
It seems to set out many of the key features of a critique of knowledge
management, but I wondered how you might address the question of why
knowledge management and why now?
Are we simply being hailed by the consultancy/fad processes and these will
simply 'move on' shortly as the promise of above average returns is
From: Tom Wilson [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, 18 December 2001 6:34 a.m.
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Knowledge management teaching
Given the controversy surrounding the concept of 'knowledge management',
perhaps one ought to be a little careful in introducing courses with this
title. You may be interested to read the debate at the JESSE list (archived
at: http://listserv.utk.edu/archives/jesse.html - follow the relevant links
for November, December 2001).
When even the founders of this management consultancy fad protest that
knowledge cannot be managed. I would refer to the FAQ file at Karl-Erik
Sveiby's web-site but, perhaps advisedly - for commercial reasons, he has
now removed this - however one of his responses was:
"I don't believe knowledge can be managed. Knowledge Management is a poor
term, but we are stuck with it, I suppose. "Knowledge Focus" or "Knowledge
Creation" ... are better terms, because they describe a mindset, which sees
knowledge as activity not an object. It is a human vision, not a
We can also note that a much quoted resource on the subject is at
brint.com - but that 'knowledge management portal' used to be called
'information management'. This has been referred to by David Weinberger as
'search and replace marketing' - much employed by the software houses that
are touting their 'groupware' systems, or their e-mail indexing systems,
under the banner of 'knowledge systems' - garbage! (See,
Much ink is spent on writing about 'capturing tacit knowledge' - inevitably
citing Polanyi, but tacit knowledge, according to Polanyi, is the
inexpressible part of knowledge - we know how to ride a bicycle, but no
amount of telling someone how to ride will turn them into a cyclist - we
cannot convey the tacit knowledge that is some complex interaction of
understanding and physiological responses.
The fact that university teachers, who ought to be concerned about creating
a critical understanding of the lack of any conceptual base for 'knowledge
management' in their students is particularly alarming. They are in danger
of jumping on a management consultancy bandwagon without wheels. They are
also in danger of their more intelligent students discovering that, the
Emperor has no clothes!
No doubt those who have convinced themselves that 'knowledge management' has
substance, will draw attention to what they claim to be 'research' in the
field. When this is examined critically, however, as I did for the JESSE
http://listserv.utk.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0112&L=jesse&F=&S=&P=2064) it turns
out that this research is about almost everything other than managing
knowledge - not surprisingly, my message received no defense from the
advocates of 'knowledge management'.
We need, in any discipline, to define our terms: knowledge is what we
information is what we tell about what we know, our aim is to inform others,
and the information can be collected into texts of various kinds, paper,
electronic, filmic, graphic, sound, etc. - those resources can be managed.
Knowledge cannot be managed. As for the so-called human or people dimension
of 'knowledge management' - all of the material I have seen in this area is
actually about such things as team development, information sharing,
motivation of people to increase information sharing, and so on. The much
touted World Bank 'knowledge management' programme turns out to be largely
about encouraging the developing world to adopt communication and
information technologies and not about managing knowledge at all - it is not
without significance that the former head of that programme has retired and
is now... yes, you guessed it, a 'knowledge management consultant'!
The knowledge management fraternity is with Alice in the land through the
looking glass, talking to Humpty Dumpty, for whom words meant what he wanted
them to mean.
Professor T.D. Wilson, PhD
Professor Emeritus in Information Management
Department of Information Studies
University of Sheffield
Sheffield S10 2TN
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, December 17, 2001 3:28 PM
> Subject: Knowledge management teaching
> > I would like to make contact with other people in UK universities with
> > experience of teaching knowledge management. We are developing a module
> > called Knowledge Management for next semester in the School of
> > Management, University of Brighton. The module will be taken by a mixed
> > group of level 2 information systems and library/information science
> > students - rather than the more usual business degree course students.
> > are aiming for a module that gives a practical illustration to some of
> > main concepts of knowledge management, through a case study approach to
> > teaching and hands-on use of tools such as web pages and collaborative
> > software. The main theme of the module will be to look at the
> > requirements for developing information services that support "knowldge
> > management" - i.e. that are more than just information repositories.
> > If anyone has any experience that they could share, or module details
> > we could look at on their web pages, then I would be very interested in
> > hearing from them.
> > Thanks for your time, Liz
> > Liz Guy, Senior Lecturer,
> > School of Information Management
> > University of Brighton
> > http://www.it.bton.ac.uk/staff/esg1/Home.htm