Informing and Knowing: IM vs. KM

The Tree of Knowledge.

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 think that an understanding between the two terms is possible by taking perhaps a very simplistic approach – relating to the fundamental differences between “Information” and “Knowledge.”

Information: To INFORM is an activity in which facts or information are conveyed. Information comes from the “act of informing.” To be informed is to be aware.

Knowledge: To KNOW may be the result of having gained knowledge through observation, experience or education. Knowledge comes from the “state of knowing.” To have knowledge is to understand the meaning and significance of something.

To me then, a “big” difference is that in Information Management it is all about the acts of collection and distribution of information, where the results are focused on processing and delivery of information that serves to make the end user aware of something; whereas Knowledge Management is all about the end results of knowing, where the understanding gained comes from the acquisition of knowledge and then managing the people and process that hold that knowledge.

In short, I would rather have knowledge than to simply be informed. And it probably explains why I’ve always been uncomfortable with the use of the term “Information Technology” when it comes to the tools that we may use in KM (and much more prefer the term “KM Technology”).

Which to me explains why we’re familiar with the expression “know-how” and I’ve yet to run across “inform-how.” And I’ve not yet run into informationable and so I’m quite happy to be knowledgeable.

Dr. Dan's Daily Dose:
Words have meaning.  And so it is important to understand the basic differences between Information Management and Knowledge Management.  And in the end, I’d rather be knowledgeable.
About Dr. Dan Kirsch