Nicholas Carroll writes in with a link to his own essay called "Deconstructing Knowledge: Content Management Replaces Social Engineering.", which is based on his impressions from the recent KMWorld conference here in California. He suggests that the old notion of knowledge management as the end-all, be-all solution has gone the way of just about every other end-all, be-all solution: absolutely no where. He notes that almost all of the vendors displaying their wares at KMWorld had moved away from even calling their solutions knowledge management and were much more focused on seemingly more practical problems such as content management, search and information retrieval. I was actually at KMWorld myself, and was surprised at just how many vendors were there offering some version of those visualization tools that tries (and usually fails) to make information analysis easier by creating hubs and spokes of information connected to each other in a nice (movable) visual picture. Every time I've used such a system, I find it cool to play around with, but not particularly practical. In all my experiences with knowledge management systems, I can't name a single "knowledge management" implementation that actually did anything valuable to a company. The biggest problem most people found with knowledge management was the very concept of the system - taking knowledge out of someone's head and putting it into a computer system. People don't want to input the data - and even if they do, data alone isn't knowledge. So, along come the next generation of knowledge management systems to "automate" the process. Except, that as nice as automation is, it doesn't really work for "knowledge". It may be able to sort through information and data - but knowledge is in a different realm altogether. This is part of what keeps us going with the work we do for Techdirt Corporate Intelligence. Sure, we have pretty cool technology that makes us efficient - but it's the human intelligence and knowledge using the tools that make what we offer compelling to our clients. We like to joke that we offer a "knowledge management system with the knowledge included" - and Nicholas' analysis does a great job analyzing just what's wrong with so many so-called "knowledge management" ideas. Certainly, some are getting more practical, but the focus is still on the wrong things. Knowledge management has always been a top-down tool, designed to automate the processes of a company, rather than a bottom up (no matter what the vendors now say) system that the user's adopt because it helps them directly. Management wants knowledge management. Employees generally want knowledge "assistance" - and most tools vendors are far away from that vision.
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