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Knowledge Management COMS 380. What is knowledge?.

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what is knowledge

What is knowledge?

Knowledge is neither data nor information, though it is related to both, and the differences between these terms are often a matter of degree. We start with those more familiar terms both because they are more familiar and because we can understand knowledge best with reference to them. Confusion about what data, information, and knowledge are -- how they differ, what those words mean -- has resulted in enormous expenditures on technology initiatives that rarely deliver what the firms spending the money needed or thought they were getting. Often firms don't understand what they need until they invest heavily in a system that fails to provide it.

Davenport, Thomas H. and Prusak, Laurence. (1997). Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know . Boston: Harvard Business School Press

what is knowledge3

What is knowledge?

  • Data -- static facts; raw inputs
    • No inherent meaning in data
  • Information -- data that is structured; has meaning
    • Sender/receiver; aim is to reduce uncertainty; “data that makes a difference” (Bateson)
  • Knowledge -- information that is acted upon
    • “Knowledge arises from minds at work”
what is knowledge4

What is knowledge?

Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms.

km where does it come from

KM: where does it come from?

  • The computer era (1950s/60s)
    • Centralized stage: activity focused on the technology itself.
    • Efforts within the nascent field of Information Systems (IS) were directed to making refinements to the base technology.
    • The emphasis was on large computer installations housed in a central location and managed as a non-distributed technology.
km where does it come from6

KM: where does it come from?

  • The information era (1970s/80s)
    • Distributed stage: first localization of computing as a distributed resource
    • Microcomputers; first supercomputers
    • End users beginning to exert pressure on applications and use
    • Growth of IS as a strategic function of the organization
km where does it come from7

KM: where does it come from?

  • The information utility era (late 1980s)
    • Diffusion stage: Information is now ubiquitous, “a corporate resource that dramatically alters not only the manner in which organizations function, but also in the way they compete”
    • Responsibility shifts to the line (but autonomy slow to follow)
    • Organizational change is rapid; downsizing begins.
km where does it come from8

KM: where does it come from?

  • The Knowledge Management era (1990s)
    • Social context stage: Loss of middle management through corporate downsizing in recessionary period of 1991-95 lobotomizes most organizations (knowledge loss)
    • Employee “contract” re-written; workers responsible for their own careers and future
    • Commercialization of the internet; dot-com explosion
km where does it come from10

KM: where does it come from?

The Knowledge Management era (1990s)

km where are we now

KM: where are we now?

  • The network era (2000+)
    • The collaboration stage: advanced broadband development enhancing distance work/training/education
    • Emphasis on virtual work teams heightened by world events
    • Computerization under pressure through demand and fast-approaching limits of current miniaturization (enter quantum computing and nanotechnology)