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"Knowledge sharing" and "knowledge management"

Many practitioners pf knowledge management increasingly see “knowledge sharing” as a better description of what they are about than “knowledge management”. Advantages of "knowledge sharing" as a term include its commonsense comprehensibility, along with a certain degree of inter-activity implicit in any sharing.

Drawbacks of "knowledge sharing" include the possibility that even "sharing" is insufficiently interactive, and that it implies (falsely) that the existence of knowlege precedes the sharing process, thereby (wrongly) separating knowledge management from "knowledge creation" and "innovation" and "research".

It also could be taken to imply that the activity stops when knowledge has been communicated and has not yet been applied, when it is obvious that the application of knowledge is what the activity should be about.

These drawbacks can be overcome by using a whole phrase "knowledge creation, sharing and application" although then the advantages of brevity and simplicity are lost.

As a shorthand term, "knowledge sharing" has advantages over “knowledge management” which some would argue is a contradiction in terms, being a hangover from an industrial era when control modes of thinking were dominant. Thus knowledge is not just an explicit tangible “thing”, like information, but information combined with experience, context, interpretation and reflection. Knowledge involves the full person, integrating the elements of both thinking and feeling. Hence some object to the implicit suggestion in the use of the term “knowledge management” that knowledge can be so managed, as revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of knowledge.

Others would prefer to emphasize “learning”, since the real challenge in implementing knowledge management is less in the “sending” and more in the “receiving”, particularly the processes of sense making, understanding, and being able to act upon the information available.

Overall, whatever the term employed to describe it, knowledge management is increasingly seen, not merely as the latest management fashion, but as signaling the development of a more organic and holistic way of understanding and exploiting the role of knowledge in the processes of managing and doing work, and an authentic guide for individuals and organizations in coping with the increasingly complex and shifting environment of the modern economy.

See The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, a book by Stephen Denning. Butterworth Heinemann, October 2000

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