Knowledge Management in 2005

A Compound of Alchymie


I was going through my old blog on Typepad tonight and came across some interesting posts from 2005/2006 on knowledge management (KM). I’m writing an article on KM and Social Learning but before I post that I thought this post from November 2005 is a nice summary of where we were with KM back in 2005.

Posted originally on ‘A Compound of Alchymie’ on 25 November 2005

There was a neat little piece by Carol Lewis on KM in The Times Career Supplement on 17th November.

It went along the following lines (italics are my comments):

Big Brained Bosses
It’s not just the grey matter of those at the top that is of interest. Knowledge management (KM) is about managing the knowledge we all possess to further the aims of our firms.

The bit about futhering the aims of our firms is insightful – and begs the question what’s really in it for us – I mean us busy knowledge worker bees?

Sounds suspiciously like thought control to me
“Knowledge management is unfortunately a misleading term – knowledge resides in people’s heads and managing it is not really possible or desirable,” says the NHS (

No point doing KM then. But the NHS seems incapable of taking it’s own medicine (it runs numerous NHS KM projects). Maybe it sought a second opinion? Actually a brief look at the NELH website shows that, like most of us, the NHS uses IM and KM pretty interchangeably.

So what the heck is it?
It is to “know what you know” and profit from it, according to

There’s that profit thing again. Is it the organisation that profits or the individual? That’s a tough one.

Is knowledge the same as information or data?
This is a key dispute in KM – that all too often it is data or information management masquerading as KM. See TD Wilson’s the ‘nonsense of knowledge management’.

That old chestnut. Has it ever been properly resolved? TD Wilson’s paper tests the KM thing to breaking point.

Does anyone use it?
According to Bain & Co (, KM has had a chequered career. Long heralded as an essential management tool in the information age, it has grown in popularity. Bain’s Management Tools 2005 survey says that 54% of companies use it – compared with 28% in 1996 – but that satisfaction with KM is not as high as with other management tools such as benchmarking or business process re-engineering.

I’m guessing they mean 54% of big companies, but then maybe KM only really ‘works’ in big companies?

Fad or fashion?
There are high hopes that new generation of KM systems will deliver greater satisfaction. Systems that automatically analyse e-mails and documents for useful content and associations are being developed by a variety of companies. There are privacy issues but if they can be overcome KM could finally live up to the hype.

So the saviour is ICT? But isn’t that a solution to our information management problems? Maybe we need a thought control device after all – with a thought control drug developed by those clever KM people in the NHS. Then KM might really take flight.

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