The distinction between an ontology and taxonomy is subtle and often difficult to grasp. When I first started in KM, taxonomies were hot, hot,but there has been a downplay with time - perhaps in line with loweremphasis on explicit knowledge repositories?
Now I find very few clients who are willing to 'invest' in a corporate taxonomy and even fewer who have been down that road and believe they have gained value - why?
Tagging or folksonomies, have all the advantages of effective individual recall and value without the imposition and overhead of a rigid, formal process and the complex rules that go with it. However I often reflect on the hidden costs of and lost opportunities that go along with this 'open'
Firms that have taken the plunge, made the investment and then followed a more traditional taxonomic approach have gained from:
- 1) sharing a common language
- 2) being able to leverage their distinctions
- 3) improved internal communication
- 4) raised the power, promise and potential of their dialog
- 5) been able to move to higher levels of complexity faster
- 6) recognized 'new' concepts more consistently
- 7) lifted the level of their awareness and 'intelligence' gathering
These are powerful, yet intangible advantages, very hard to quantify the benefits when we are talking agility, awareness and efficiencies in communication - but they are there for the taking.
Far too often KM advocates have an implicit belief in the "power' and effectiveness of taxonomy - this is ingrained in their training and practice. What they tend to miss is the synergy and flow that comes from personal connection, dialog, and ephemeral idea exchanges.
The real power of a taxonomy IMO does not arise from the elegance of classification and organization - rather it happens as a by-product of the connections, wrestling with those difficult distinctions and the joint leverage of taking language to higher level.
What are your experiences?