Knowledge as possession and knowledge as being, is one of those fundamental polarities in KM, time to take another look.
Working with knowledge we face some interesting choices:
- Codification or personalisation?
- Explicit or tacit?
- Knowledge as object or as flow?
- Knowledge as emergent or existent?
- Do we mine existing information or create new knowledge?
- Should we focus on internal or external (customer) knowledge?
- Is our core driver process or practice?
- Must we focus on community or cognition?
Knowledge as possession pervades most of our thinking and writing. We talk easily of knowledge harvesting, knowledge transfer, intellectual capital, knowledge assets, capturing, storing, distribution, valuation, ownership, purchase and possession when managing knowledge. This is knowledge as an object, a resource, a commodity. This is explicit, explicated, static, rigid, recorded.
Knowledge can be observed from other vantage points - consider knowledge as dispersed, community bound, emergent, ephemeral, embedded in practice, as sense-making, arising from interaction and dialog. In this sense, knowledge is acquired through participation, practice, apprenticement. knowledge is 'being' and doing, shared understandings and frameworks. Knowledge is socially and culturally mediated, negotiated interpretation and embedded in relationships.
Knowledge, in this second view, is not a token, ownership rests within the ecology and is collective, knowing is rooted in membership, practice and being, emerges via dialog and actor to actor exchange - it cannot be extracted, captured, exchanged without critical loss of meaning, context and value. This helps explain why best practice transfer is a myth, why ethnography rather than surveys are needed to uncover knowledge, why measuring knowledge makes no sense, why mentorship, community, relationships, trust and dialog are keys to knowledge fermentation.
Way too often we reside or slide towards 'knowledge as possession' and overlook, forget, ignore or dismiss the very qualities and conditions that make knowledge really interesting.