I get asked this a lot and so I thought that it would make for a nice short and to the point blog post: What is the difference between “Information Management” and “Knowledge Management”? And I’ve found that this easy explanation has proven to be helpful enough so that I’ve always got it handy as a backup slide when I’m giving KM presentations or training.
I’d like to dedicate this particular post to a great comedian Bill Engvall, and his routine focused around “Here’s your sign.” This post is for those who in implementing Knowledge Management, truly need their sign, and especially for this “poster child” that really needed a sign.
I was having some off-line discussions related to KM metrics, as well as how to determine which KM initiatives make for the “best” for initial implementation, etc. And somewhere in those discussions we wandered smack into the middle of discussing why it seems that so many initial KM efforts have “problems.” And then at about the same time I received this absolute gem from Hubert Saint-Onge:
“When I was Senior Vice President of Strategic Capability at Clarica, I had to present my business plan on a quarterly basis to the CEO. In addition to knowledge management and learning, my portfolio included strategic planning, internal and external communication, human resources, and corporate branding. In other words, the full basket of intangibles.
The CFO attended these meetings and kept bringing up the measurement question. I was always able to side step the issue. One day, he became more vociferous than usual on the need to measure all this crap — in his words. Luckily, I had many opportunities to practice an answer. I said that I admired his passion for measuring and that I would like to take his lead on this matter. I promised right there that if he would share with me how he was measuring his organization’s finance and actuarial work was adding value to the company, I would right away adopt and apply this framework to the activities I was responsible for.
He looked at me dumb-founded. It had never occurred to him that he should measure what was considered conventional activities in the company: it’s that new so-called ‘crap’ we needed to measure. Isn’t it interesting that we put the onus of measurement on what is new when we have pile upon pile we don’t measure because it is just so. As all of us who have worked on this for decades, measuring the impact of growing intangible assets on the bottom line is no easy feat. It certainly cannot be trivialized because sometimes having wrong answers is worse than having no answer.”
Again. Whoa. The bad news is that the author of that blog post is a management consultant. The good news is that at least the author isn’t involved in knowledge management. But clearly the author has a very limited understanding of systems theory, systems thinking, and organizational change.
Many organizations take a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to implementing Knowledge Management collaborative tools. That approach is not particularly “smart” but I think that there is another whole issue at play, and it involves a little “peek behind the curtain” of those providing knowledge management tools.