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Re: [ontolog-forum] Quote for the day -- KR and KM

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Jack Ring <jring7@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 15:41:54 -0700
Message-id: <CE8FC4FE-2689-42F0-B19E-FB455FE6783B@xxxxxxxxx>
On Jan 4, 2011, at 2:35 PM, Phil Murray wrote:

This is actually rather humorous  -- not because it is wrong or unreasonable in any way, but because this is one classic perspective on "knowledge management" (KM) ... and because the majority of KMers decided that [this] was not possible and/or not the right thing to do. By "this" I mean the following specific points:

Ed Barkmeyer wrote:

I think we are in agreement on this.  My take, based primarily on 
discussions with manufacturing executives and a handful of consultants, 
is that what the senior executives want right now is three things:

 (a) a means of organizing the captured corporate knowledge, so that it 
can be searched and retrieved by people who discover they need it.  The 
problem with the captured knowledge is that it is mostly in text form, 
with some formal models and structures in various languages and tools.  

Yes, but KMers failed to make a well-reasoned distinction between internalized ("tacit") knowledge and knowledge that could be represented explicitly, preferring instead to argue endlessly about the difference between the two, framing (a) "tacit knowledge" as something that could only be captured through personal experience and application and (b) "explicit knowledge" as the stuff of search engines, content-management systems, and (more recently) "social technologies."

Ironically, some early KM gurus coined the term "knowledge engineer" to describe the activities of various KM professionals. They were completely unaware that KR people had been using the term in a very specific way for many years.
In theory, this is the kind of thing we ought to be able to do better 
with ontologies, and it is a direct application of some of the Semantic 
Web ideas.

Well, ontologies are not at the core of the problem as stated. Yes, ontologies are an essential component of a much-needed overall model and associated process that is built primarily on how people communicate, disambiguate, evaluate, integrate, manage, and apply meaning. Such a model must enable contributions and modifications in isolation, in the same way that well-designed RDBMS applications do.

The answer is hardly limited to developing something to meet the needs of reasoning tools alone -- except for well-defined requirements, of course. And it is certainly not limited to Semantic Web ideas.
 (b) a means of capturing corporate knowledge that may otherwise be lost 
as senior staffers retire or are attracted to other firms.  
Again, yes. In KM circles, this has been labelled "brain drain" and a few other tags -- discussed ad nauseam. But the need is not at all limited to senior staffers.


The idea here is to do the 
knowledge engineering 'from the horse's mouth'.
Yes, but -- as noted previously -- the source of working knowledge is not limited to experts ... nor is it, at the other extreme, an emergent product of implementing social media.

Ontologies can provide formal definitions of classes 
and properties (in terms of 'more fundamental' ones), which allows us to 
deduce relationships, recognize (or declare) synonyms, and recognize 
inconsistencies in the 'schemas' themselves.
And you will find KMers who sneer at such an ambition, using our inability to capture "knowledge" perfectly as a false straw man. Personally, I have never encountered a KR professional -- in person or in this forum -- who claims that it is possible or desirable to do so.

The problem with delivering any of these results is tying the bell on 
the cat's neck.  Some team of knowledge engineers has to get down and 
dirty with the text resources and the individual company practitioners, 
and tease out and formulate all of the knowledge that is presumably 
resident in them.  And then the knowledge engineers have to go back to 
many of these resources to resolve some of the confusion and conflict.  
That is an expensive process for the CEO, not because of what the 
consulting ontologists cost, but because of the time of his/her 
corporate personnel assets that is consumed.  Further, it is a risky 
process, precisely because it exposes the knowledge that is the 
corporate advantage to external eyes and ears.  Unlike Toby's tag line, 
this is an activity that must be done well -- thoroughly and carefully 
-- to be worth doing at all.
Well, first of all, if you view the solution solely from the perspective of C-level personnel (on the one hand) or technologists/knowledge engineers (on the other hand) you've already lost the battle.

The desirable starting point is the relationship between communication and work as a method of producing value, efficiencies, or improvements -- *not* representing and reconciling concepts, although the latter is also essential.

I repeat, Ed, that everything you say makes good sense. But these are lessons managers of organizations should have learned already ... and didn't, ironically, for many of the reasons you state.

Phil Murray
Chief Knowledge Architect
I encourage Ed to charge on with his ideas, undamped and unhampered by Phil's reports about the whimpers of KM'rs. 
The opinions of KM'rs, especially ones with KM Certification, are rather like asking the guy who changes the oil in your car how to win the LeMans race.

The results of projects with CEO's and Staffs who don't know "O" are dramatic. Perhaps the model of their 'enterprise as a system' isn't what some on this list would call an ontology. But that model does reflect the definitions by Gruber and others although not necessarily the spaghetti code being created by Semantic Web workers.

That said, probably Ed and others will have more success by NOT 'forming a team of knowledge engineers to get down and dirty with the text resources and the individual company practitioners, and tease out and formulate all of the knowledge that is presumably resident in them' 

Instead, figure out how to facilitate a CEO and Staff in an expedition by which they discover the differences between an intelligent enterprise model and their current multiple views of their enterprise then decide what aspects they are going to heal in what order.

Although many CEO's want a way to organize captured knowledge the ones who usually win want ways to discover new knowledge faster than others do.

Jack Ring

OBTW, if architecture signifies "arrangement of function and feature that satisfies an objective" and knowledge signifies "what I know when I need to know it" and Chief signifies "hierarchy" then there may not be much future demand for Chief Knowledge Architects.

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