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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Knowledge Claims

@JDeragon blogs about the emergence of a "know" profile. He identifies four types of knowledge - intellectual, social, creative and spiritual - and advocates the construction of individual profiles that express our individual "knowledge inventory" across these four types of knowledge.

The metaphor of "knowledge inventory" is based on his assertion that people are containers of knowledge. But what if people are NOT "containers" of knowledge, asks @EskoKilpi, who argues that one of the main challenges for knowledge management is bridging the gap between knowing and acting.

I fully concur with Esko's objection to the "container" metaphor, and I agree that the relationship between knowing and acting is important - in fact it's a critical connection in my model of organizational intelligence. However, I think we have to be careful not to imply that the gap between knowing and acting can ever be completely closed. There is always a need to act under conditions of uncertainty.

Even if we were willing to regard knowledge-as-content, Jay Deragon acknowledges that this knowledge would need to be measured and vetted over time. So the best that we could possibly expect from a set of knowledge profiles is a collection of knowledge claims, together with some information that would allow us to evaluate a given claim. Does this person really know everything about project management? Does this medical researcher really know that this procedure is safe and effective?

When I pointed out that I can claim knowledge about all sorts of things, and asked who is the best judge of how much I really know, @oscarberg replied that "real life is the best judge".

But since we don't have a reliable way of interrogating real life in real-time, we must surely treat all knowledge-claims with caution.


  1. Uhhmmm....the inability to "bridge the gap between knowing and acting" is nothing to be proud of and certainly not a fanfare for arguing against someone who can.

    Knowledge Management is a largely compromised as a science by it's subservience to the boundaries of a corporation where the objective is to keep people poor weak and disorganized lest they figure out how much they are worth. Hint: Economics is the science of incentives.

    There's a saying about glass houses that slipped my mind for the moment -

  2. Dan, I am committed to the attempt to reduce the gap between knowing and acting, but there are some pretty strong reasons for believing that the gap can never be completely closed. Anyone who thinks his knowledge is perfect is mistaken.

    I agree that there are huge problems with Knowledge Management when it is subservient to a corporation that fails to respect its people. But I'm not interested in that kind of Knowledge Management, but in a more authentic approach to knowledge and action.