« Experience & patterns | Main | Thinking of KM tools »

September 22, 2003


David Locke

That definition of wisdom is more than twenty years old and isn't mine.

Truth is for philosphers. Just like your use of the term objective. Yes, I want my knowledge to reproduce accurately, but that isn't truth.

This reminds me of early program proving. You could prove the program in itself, but you couldn't prove the program in the larger context. Now you can prove the program in the larger context, but the environment is non-deterministic, so you still have something preventing proof.

If you mean accurate, I would say that the truth you seek about the knowledge is that it is true within itself. When I look for Truth, I mean is it the correct thing to do, as in applying the knowledge in the context of human history.

In regards to accuracy, we change our perceptions of it all the time. When we replace one paradigm with another are we doing it, because the new one is truer and suddenly the old one is falser.

I don't see where human value judgements play in knowledge. When a house learns about its occupants and captures implicit knowledge about its occupants, the house isn't making any moral judgements about the occupants. Tying philosophical truth to knowledge doesn't make sense to me.

I would ask that if you were to schedule a workshop on some knowledge domain, how would that workshop be successful if it were unable to explicate some knowledge in that domain? "Yeah, let's hold a meeting and watch the paint dry. Lets go over what we already explicated." Holding the class is establishing, scheduling, the expectation that we will explicate this domain today. I

Mark W. McElroy


Thanks for filling in the gaps. My thoughts about what you say are as follows:

a. You make reference twice to the amount of time my 'demand-side scheme' takes for learning. I've never made any calims about how long things take, so I don't know what you're referring to. They can and should take as long as they need to.

b. You also seem preoccupied with the training or classroom model of learning, and critique me as if I were a staunch supporter of it. I'm not, and I don't know what makes you think I am. I simply recognize it as one approach to learning that exists -- but not the only approach.

c. I would also direct you to the 'Individual and Group Learning' component of the Knowledge Life Cycle. That subprocess represents all manner of learning styles, informal and otherwise, that go on in the minds of individuals and in the activities of groups.

d. Your definition of wisdom is a first. You say it is knowledge plus truth. What is knowledge without truth, falsity? Are you saying that people with knowledge often do not regard their knowledge as true, but that when they do it's wisdom? But until then they're all walking around saying, 'I have false knowledge because it's not true, but I call it knowledge anyway'? And what is this "strongest truth" you speak of? How would I tell the strongest truth from the weakest truth? And what is your definition of truth? How do we know it when we see it?



David Locke


I forgot to address the wisdom vs. Knowledge issue. Wisdom is knowledge plus truth, the strongest truth. If knowledge contains any truth it is truth only about itself and its fitness. But, that makes the definition of knowledge circular in that knowledge is the accretion towards fitness.

David Locke


Knowledge cannot be learned in the same sense as you get into a classroom and transfer that content to learners. That content is information and maybe explicit knowledge.

You can teach tacit and implicit knowledge, but not in a classroom. This particular means of transferring a craft, because that is what you have when you are transferring implicit knowledge, takes more time than you demand-side KM scheme allows.

Likewise with the production of knowledge. It takes more time than your scheme indicates.

Both the transfer and production of knowledge, discounting explicit knowledge is not something you can schedule and say Tuesday we are going to explicate the Xoblek. Hardly. Tuesday you may teach a workshop how to explicate it. And, if you come back every week and report in then Xoblek starts making the transition, but you will be as surprised as everyone else when it finally happens.

Your book establishes a new paradigm for KM. I'll call that a generation. Denying that only diminishes your goals.


Mark W. McElroy


I'll agree that you are justified in feeling bitter about KM -- first-generation KM, that is. Don't paint the rest of us with that brush, though. Second-generation KM is an entirely different matter and you owe it to yourself to understand it.

I cannot continue this discussion with you, however, if you ignore questions asked in the course of our dialogue. So far it's been one rant after another on your part, and that doesn't make for much of a conversation, so I guess I'm out.

Good luck with your endeavors.


David Locke

The production of KM as you describe in your demand side scheme is transferred how?

I'll agree that craft is transferred implicitly. I will agree that implicit and tacit knowledge can be packaged in products and work product and then transferred when those products are transferred.

I will not agree that non-craft knowledge can be transferred by any means without explication when it is transferred by humans. Then, it comes down to the historic practice of exlication, which cannot be carried out on a demand basis as in x units of knowledge this week. Explication failed.

Training in the corporate setting may transfer explicit knowledge, it may transfer information, but it may also transfer nothing. What I see is KM is now going to go out an usurp the training field. The next thing you know we will have tons of knowledge classes. When we do, then the term knowledge is being applied as an alias for information. And, that was the trap first generation KM fell into.

As for the issue of librarians, what I see is the geeks, who are not librarians, building all kinds of library science systems without asking the librarians. I'm not opposed at all to librarians in the KM business. But, tech always serves tech first.

Why would I be bitter about KM?

Mark W. McElroy

David, the bitterness in your remarks comes through quite clearly. Here I will only briefly address a few of your comments, some of which I think are based on misconceptions and not disagreements between us.

First, the term 'objective' in the context in which I use it refers only to the property of shareability in knowledge expressed in linguistic form, such as explicit knowledge. That's all, nothing more. That sense of the term comes from Karl Popper's epistemology, on which much of my work is based.

Next, the competition you speak of in KM is not a generational thing. Indeed, it is still ongoing. If it were a generational criterion, then there would only be one generation, one that has not yet ended. But there's more to the KM story than that as my book suggests.

As for the Intellectual Capital point you made, I agree with it. That's why I brought it up, to answer your question. In the chapter you refer to, I pointed out what at least some of the flaws are that I think you refer to, including the utter absence of social capital as a factor in contemporary (and flawed) valuation schemes (not to mention market psychologies).

Next, you say truth is only found in wisdom, not knowledge. What is wisdom and what is your theory of truth?

Finally, since you have seen fit to criticize my view of what KM is, and also my contention that knowledge can be learned (or produced), perhaps you will be good enough to take the next step and tell my why you think these things, and also what your conter-claims are.



Olaf Brugman

Hi David, Did librarians really lose? I see them getting more and more crucial again in finding our way through the immense and growing number of our electronic bookshelves. Now that we have found out that using search engines provides us with so many search results that they feel like clutter to us. Web directories are becoming more and more populair. And in electronic document classification, we need librarians to build taxonomies that are as unambiguous as they can. And they have done a good job. Taxonomies of expertise domains (finance, medical science etc) are fairly stable. Looks like the librarians gave them a careful thought.

David Locke

In your book there is a table where you state that a claim written down makes it objective. That is utterly false. A claim written down mearly makes it explicit. It can be as subjective as the author intended it to be or not. The objectiveness of the claim is another claim.

First generation KM was about the competition by different functional organizations for ownership of KM. That the libarians lost isn't amazing. That IT worked hard to win isn't amazing. Why did this competition take place? Why did the competition confuse the definition as it wrote the definition? Why is this a normal process in the, to use your term, production of knowledge? And, why is that even you didn't recognize it as what you happen to be selling, the production of knowledge?

The graph that showed how intangible value became exponential fails to show that now, in 2003, that intangible value has completely disappeared relative to tangible value. Did we actually lose knowledge? No. The simple fact is that the valuation methodology used to place value on intangibles is flawed just like everything else about accounting. So why bring it up?

I could write the counter-book against your book. You have no idea what KM is either like all the other KM practitioners out there.

Why do companies have to create demand-side profits, because they can no longer product supply-side growth. Its what you do when you cannot create anymore wealth. So to say that KM needs to move over to the demand side is to say there is no value in KM, that all the value in KM has been milked out. Have at it. I'll watch.

And, learning knowledge isn't possible, so your production scheme is just as bogus as the people who confuse IT with KM. And, yes they drive me nuts as well.

David Locke

Truth is something you find in Wisdom, not Knowledge. Maybe this seeking of truth is looking for the wrong label.

So what is truth? Is it some socially constructed moral value? Yes. Your book is creating a community that believes what you believe. Your belief is your belief. It is not truth. It is your belief about your reality, which is nothing more than your perception. Even sharing in a mass illusion is possible, but empty of truth.

You claim truth for your side for propaganda purposes. It makes you feel better, superior, and more right. Likewise, with your readers. But, it has nothing to do with truth.

Ultimately, the people pushing moral value today are the very people who seek to destroy not only knowledge, but the world. Mr. Bennett's truth was revealed. But, was that knowledge or just a tawdry story about the immoral moral cryer.

The augmented transition network way of seeing knowledge as a triggered forumla died with expert systems. It was empty. I was devoid of the human. Only in the human is there truth. Brand's notions about how buildings learn have nothing to do with truth, except for the truth of the people who lived in that building. The knowledge remains, but the truth is gone.

Social construction is a fact, or a truth. It works beyond those expert systems. But, no there is no truth in social construction anymore than there is truth in knowledge. Truth is in wisdom.

So if you want to run off and create the discipline of wisdom management go for it, but don't confuse it with KM. And, don't think that it is productizable while KM is still nebulous.

Yes, community has been branded a bad thing. Welcome to hell.

Olaf Brugman

Hi Denham,
Some comments:

Whether knowledge is based on rational, explicit, logical thoughts, or on implicit, feeling-level thoughts etc are - to me - both examples of knowledge as a 'model' of something. The model might be clear, or blurry. On top of that, personal perspectives, preferences, choices etc affect what is knowledge. Your example of 'what works for me', shows both aspects: a 'knower' who determines the scope of his knowledge model based on 'what works', and some form of operative model ("what works" = (A+B+X in situation S), for example. I have written more on this at: http://goiaba.blogs.com/knowledge_bridge/2003/09/km_sabotage_wha.html .

The quest for truth can be seen as an open conversation about the knowledge model called 'truth'. Even such a model can never be final, and is also affected by decisions and intentions of the people using the model.But I would prefer KM to be also about scrutinizing knowledge models, and in this respect I think McEllroy has an important message. Especially in the context of current debates about Corporate Social Responsibility, World Politics and corporate branding (www.beyond-branding.com), we have seen that it worthwhile to scrutinize knowledge models and assess their quality.

The comments to this entry are closed.