Welcome to information about "Knowledge Management"

Comments always welcome.

Knowledge Management. Hmmmm. That's a common term these days in business circles. What does it mean? What is knowledge management? Is it anything new?

I think that human beings have been practicing "Knowledge Management" for a long time. (In fact, the best single book I've read on the subject is Paula Underwood's "The Walking People" -- the oral history of the Iroquois as they walked across continents and learned how to learn). What does seem to be new is a conjunction of several factors:
* Computing hardware is faster, cheaper and smaller
* Computer storage is faster, cheaper, and smaller
* Computer software is getting smarter
* Communications bandwidth is growing
* There is more and more information available electronically
* The world is effectively growing smaller economically
* People are beginning to view "knowledge management" from a systems perspective
(See Organizational Learning

Much of the current technology of knowledge management focuses on dealing with knowledge once it is already well-structured and inside a computer. Challenges for the twenty-first century focus on working better with semi-structured knowledge and making it easier for people to get knowledge "inside" a computer (This is actually an oversimplification -- it's not clear that knowledge (as opposed to data) can actually be "inside" a computer. In reality, what is in the computer may be information that when presented to a human being or group in the right manner and circumstances, helps call up or produce knowledge in the person or group).

One of the ways that human beings have evolved to deal with the complexities of knowledge --- to transmit that knowledge to the next generation -- is to tell stories. Today, we are tending to understand the importance of stories and to appreciate how versatile and important they are in a number of contexts.

Stories can be thought of from a number of perspectives. One of these perspectives is that stories instantiate specific instances of general patterns of problem solving behavior in complex, ill-structured situations that involve multiple agents with different goals operating in the same realspace.

more on the IBM Research project on stories

Instantiate: One of the challenges in knowledge management, indeed, for each of us in our own lives, is to understand why we succeed or fail so that we can generalize but not overgeneralize based on our experience -- and the experience of others that we hear or read about.

Patterns: Using the power of the computer, it may be possible to build a pattern language of how to solve particular kinds of complex problems. For instance, what are the patterns that stories show us about how to resolve conflicts peacefully? For more about pattern languages, check out:

Patterns. It seems possible that the underlying schemas for solving complex, ill-structured, multi-party problems can best be captured in terms of pattern languages.


Here are some links for learning more about how stories can be a significant way to capture and create knowledge in an organization.

An example of the role of stories in design

My short stories

More use of stories in business

More about knowledge management in general:

IBM's Institute for Knowledge Management


To contact the author: truthtable@aol.com

Last modified: Tues. Nov. 4, 1997