Knowledge Management


In the days past when I worked for the IT support section of DSTO, this mystical program called "TARDIS" popped up from time to time.

They didn't tend to talk to the IT department (or at least not the part that I worked for), so it was always a bit amorphous and no-one seemed to know what it actually did.

Well, Graham Durant-Law has a number of informative PowerPoint presentations (particularly this one) and it explains the process in more detail.

Knowledge Workers vs Non Knowledge Workers

I have a lot of respect for the work that Anecdote does, but I'm going to have to come down entirely on Dave Snowden's side on the ongoing debate between him and Shawn.

I was pleased to see that Dave picked up on my comment about McDonald's employees not being knowledge workers. I think the attitude of management towards McDonald's staff is a clear example of why preserving the notion of a knowledge worker is still important.

For those insisting on a definition of "knowledge worker", mine is quite simple: it's being employed for the knowledge you bring rather than the knowledge you will be taught.

Yes, it's a simplification and ignores a lot of edge cases, but it captures an important large chunk of the difference.

Metadata is...

All too often, people refer to metadata as "data about data". But while this literal definition is occasionally useful, the line between data and metadata gets blurred too often.

For example, take an object catalogued by a museum.

  • Is its height and width... data or metadata?
  • Is its barcode... data or metadata?
  • Is the donor of the object... data or metadata?

Karen Coyle has a beautiful definition of metadata (you should read the whole article, it's really good):

    What is metadata?

    Metadata is ...

      constructed... (Metadata is wholly artificial, created by human beings.)
      for a purpose... (There is no universal metadata. For metadata to be useful it has to serve a purpose.)
      to facilitate an activity. (There's something that you do with metadata)


They have re-organised the page on me, but I'm pretty sure that 12manage is the same web site that I've found, lost, found, lost and finally found again.

Essentially, it's a resource listing just about every management tool, technique, fad, and jargon under the sun. So if you've ever wanted to learn more about Business Process Re-engineering or Six Sigma, this is the place to start.

Protégé - an ontology builder

It's funny how you can think you pretty much know all the top-tier Open Source applications that are available ... and then you find a program like Protégé.

An open-source (MPL) ontology builder and knowledge base engine, the program is clean, responsive and easy to use. It's Java-based, which all too often is a synonym for "slow and clunky" or "really ugly" but in this case, just download the installer (even a standalone JAR installer worked first time on Windows) and it's up and running in 2 minutes.

The obvious comparison in terms of quality (again, thinking of Java programs here) is FreeMind, a thoroughly capable mind-mapping software program.

Being flexible about categorization

These quotes from Kelly Green caught my eye from an actKM discussion:

Information systems require clearly delineated properties. I think many people involved in this space would agree that this is an artificial boundary and that the boundaries in "real world" are more elastic.
Ontologies are good for illuminating subjects -- but they seem to also constrain them.

Maybe the Web world needs a space for "fuzzy categories" -- call them "associations" or "resemblances"? Where a topic can be 70% related to 'fluffy bunnies'?


Strange attractors

The four key elements of modern enterprises are people, process, technology, and content.

Patrick Lambe has produced a fantastic diagram (p.15) which shows how many information-related disciplines (and many which people think are not related) can be placed on a visual diagram where the job's "attraction" to one of these poles is noted by how close it lies to that pole. (NB: Patrick uses the term "business" instead of "process".)

Chaos, information ecosystems and information management

Thought for the day:

  1. Modern organisations collaborate on demand, producing an unstructured and informally managed set of information flows and feedback loops.
  2. At a sufficient point of complexity, the results of these information flows will exhibit characteristics of a non-linearly dynamical or chaotic system.
  3. Many natural ecosystems are non-linear and mapping information flows from this free-flowing collaboration would exhibit many characteristics of an ecosystem. (Let’s call this information map an information ecosystem.)

Lifecycle of successful blogs

Blogs were started as a form of personal, online journal. I still think that most blogs of worth start from this point and run through a fairly defined lifecycle:

A. Blog owner starts by writing short journal posts as personal reflection or as an augmentation to individual memory. The audience at this point is zero, or just friends/family.

B. Readers stumble across the site through a search or reference from another website. If the quality appears of interest, they bookmark it and return to check for new articles periodically. As the blog owner becomes aware of the growing audience, the tone and nature of posts becomes more self-aware and probably more formal.

State of Knowledge Management [2007]

I would like to propose the following "state of KM" for 2007:

  1. Most leaders recognise the importance of improving and retaining individual and collective knowledge within an organisation to maximise effectiveness;
  2. "Knowledge Management" is now the recognised term for this requirement.
  3. Leaders believe that KM processes should be integrated into existing organisation structures.
  4. Most leaders believe that their managers already have the skills to achieve "Knowledge Management" once appropriate information management systems are installed.
  5. In the next 12-24 months 5-10 years:
    (a) Leaders will realise that (3) is necessary but not sufficient.
    (b) Leaders will realise that (4) is largely untrue.

EDIT: 2 years is probably optimistic!

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