Knowledge Management: What’s in a Name?
The field of knowledge management is broad. It continues to evolve in parallel with related fields such as: Information Management, Learning and Development, Library Science, Philosophy, and Social Media
Organizations use a variety of terms to describe their efforts. Many people complain that “knowledge management” is a poor term, that it is not possible to manage knowledge, and that other people are turned off by hearing this term. As a result, I have seen or heard many other terms suggested as replacements, including these 50:
- Best Practice Replication
- Best Practice Transfer
- Business Improvement Services
- Collaboration Systems
- Collective Learning
- Digital Enterprise
- Digital Workplace
- Digital Transformation
- Enterprise 2.0
- Enterprise Collaboration
- Enterprise Content Sourcing
- Enterprise Learning and Collaboration
- Enterprise Social
- Enterprise Social Network
- Intangible Asset Plan
- Intellectual Capital
- Intellectual Property
- Knowledge and Information Management
- Knowledge and Information Sharing
- Knowledge and Learning Processes
- Knowledge Development
- Knowledge Enablement
- Knowledge, Engagement and Collaboration
- Knowledge Exchange
- Knowledge Flow Management
- Knowledge Processing
- Knowledge Publishing and Curation
- Knowledge Retention
- Knowledge Science
- Knowledge Services
- Knowledge Sharing
- Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
- Knowledge Transfer
- Learning and Knowledge Exchange
- Learning Communities
- Learning from Experience
- Organizational Effectiveness
- Post-Industrial Knowledge Age Transformation
- Performance Management
- Radical Connectivity
- Social Business
- Social Collaboration
- Social Learning
- Social Media
- Social Networking
- Tackling Wicked Problems
One of the reasons some people claim that “KM is dead” has to do with the name for knowledge management. There are always people saying that we shouldn’t call it knowledge management – that we should call it something else. All of the 50 different names suggested above have some validity. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but we’re still calling it knowledge management. That’s the label that stuck. Spending a lot of time talking about what we should call it probably isn’t as helpful as worrying about how to do it better.
Knowledge Management has been around as a term for over 25 years, while other terms such as “Enterprise 2.0” have come and gone during that time. So even if it is not the best term, it is a recognized one, and attempts to replace it have not been successful so far. Those organizations that have tried using one of these alternatives usually end up having to explain what the new term means, and often resort to saying something like “that’s what we used to call knowledge management.” If you have to do that, then changing the name didn’t really help.
Nick Milton wrote, ” ‘Knowledge sharing and reuse’ is better than ‘Knowledge sharing,’ but you need to add Knowledge Creation to the list as well, and probably Knowledge Synthesis, and definitely Knowledge Seeking, so by the time you say ‘Knowledge creation and seeking and sharing and synthesis and reuse’ you might as well say ‘Knowledge management.’ Knowledge Management does not imply the management of pieces of knowledge, any more than Time Management means the management of pieces of time. As Etienne Wenger said, ‘If by manage we mean to care for, grow, steward, make more useful, then the term knowledge management is rather apt.’ “
I agree with Nick and Etienne. “Knowledge Management” is a reasonable term to continue using.
Please read Stan’s blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. And learn about Lucidea’s Inmagic Presto, with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge management programs.
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