|To:||"Ontology in Kowledge Management & Decision Support" <okmds-convene@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>|
|From:||"Phil Murray" <pcmurray2000@xxxxxxxxx>|
|Date:||Tue, 11 Dec 2007 10:07:42 -0500|
I know I'm going to hate myself for this, but I can't help but respond.
First of all, put five KM experts in a room and they'll come out with 25 definitions of KM. It's a pointless exercise, and arguments about what KM "really" is are unproductive. So choose your own definition. I don't mean that as an insult. I just don't want to participate in yet another discussion of the meaning of KM.
That said, I confess to coming down on the technology side of KM. As my friend Aw Kong Koy ("KK") of Multicentric Technologies says, "Without technology, there is nothing new in Knowledge Management." KK also must be credited with the observation, "You can't manage what you don't describe." And you certainly can't "manage" knowledge directly. Part of the problem, of course, is that the KM buzzword itself has way too many denotations and connotations.
People have been blaming failures of "knowledge management initiatives" on technology, in particular, for almost as long as we've been using the term "knowledge management." (The epidemic rebranding of search technology as knowledge management technology in the '90s certainly lent credibility to that charge.) A couple years ago, KM guru Dave Snowden claimed that "up to 80% of all KM initiatives fail to meet expectations." But neither point constitutes a strong argument, let alone proof, that technology is not an important part of whatever we are calling KM.
In fact, Mika and Akkermans pointed to one of the funniest remarks ever about KM and technology:
"As summed up by one KM expert, 'If technology solves your problem yours was not a knowledge-management problem.'" (Mika and Akkermans, "Towards a New Synthesis of Ontology Technology and Knowledge Management," p. 6)
[The source of the quote may be: Ruggles, R. 1998. The state of the nation: Knowledge management in practice. California Management Review, 40(3): 80-89]
Of course, that assertion is nonsense. It's a very self-serving strawman, because no one ever claimed that pure technology solves all KM problems. And it's reminiscent of another observation about the "failed promises of AI." I can't quote precisely, but it says something to the effect that whenever successful applications are derived from AI they are immediately named something else. So, of course, AI has remained -- by definition -- a complete failure.
However, I am one of the founders of an organization -- The Center for Semantic Excellence (www.semanticexcellence.org) -- that is committed to a broad approach to what some people think of as KM. Our founding members include experts in organizational management, motivation, strategy, "sense-making," and eLearning. We champion a more "holistic" (yecch!) but well-grounded approach that includes technology. KM technology is desirable ... and inevitable.
Besides, we aren't even close to having a mature suite of semantic technologies.
On Dec 11, 2007 7:54 AM, Villano, Paul Ch CIV USA TRADOC <paul.villano@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Just one caveat with the two paragraphs I quote below. Working with the Army and the automation community I hear a concern with those involved in knowledge management of the tendency to "throw technology" at a problem and thereby confusing knowledge management itself with the technology that is used to assess, maintain and manipulate it among people. I just wanted to make clear that knowledge management should not be confused with the tools used for it.
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