Knowledge management vs information

“Knowledge is information that changes something or somebody — either by becoming grounds for actions, or by making an individual (or an institution) capable of different or more effective action.” — Peter F. Drucker in The New Realities

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Knowledge, information and data are all fundamentally different, but linked, concepts.

The terms “information” and “knowledge” are often used as though they were interchangeable, when in practice their management requires very different processes. To manage our natural resources in a sound manner we need to manage information and knowledge resources effectively. However, as the diagram illustrates, information and knowledge management focus on different parts of the same value chain.

Organisational learning, conceptual and participatory modelling

Knowledge management (KM) focuses on the processes and the people involved in creating, sharing and leveraging knowledge among science, communities, resource managers and policy makers. Some key papers in this area are set out below, and other linked papers in this KM area can be found in the networks page. Information management, in contrast, is more concerned with establishing processes and systems to gather, organise, summarise and package information … including it’s timely delivery to the right decision makers for the situation involved. The two processes are linked in activities that support learning such as you can find on the other pages such as organisational learning, conceptual modelling, and participatory modelling.

Some introductory sources on knowledge management include:

www_iconWhat is KM? Knowledge management explained. This 2012 page by Michael E. D. Koenig reminds us that the most central thrust in KM is to capture and make available, so it can be used by others in the organization, the information and knowledge that is in people’s heads as it were, and that has never been explicitly set down.

www_iconWhy Knowledge Management Is Important To The Success Of Your Company. This short 2012 article by Lisa Quast highlights the importance of knowledge management in business, and the costs of not investing in it.

Strategic Intentions: Managing knowledge networks for sustainable development This book by Heather Creech and Terri Willard  is written for practitioners who are working with different models of individual and institutional collaboration. The authors have tried to capture the details of network operations and management: what it really takes to help knowledge networks achieve their potential.

Knowledge networks and communities of practice This paper by Verna Allee first describes the new logic driving interest in knowledge management and then focuses on how OD practitioners can participate in that strategic conversation, and support knowledge creation and sharing through building communities of practice.

ABC of knowledge management. This report by Caroline De Brún provides a substantial but useful introduction to KM. It not only covers concepts and principles, but then goes on to provide tips and guides for those wanting to manage knowledge more proactively.

Organisational learning

Within business, learning is a conscious attempt on the part of organisations to improve productivity, effectiveness and innovativeness in uncertain economic and technological market conditions. The greater the uncertainties, the greater the need for learning. Learning enables quicker and more effective responses to a complex and dynamic environment. In turn, effective learning is associated with increased information sharing, communication, and understanding. Because of these reasons the concept of “learning” is probably more pronounced in business than any other area. Although business-oriented papers and research are not widely cited in agricultural, conservation or environmental literature – there are a lot of lessons to be gained from related work in organisational development and learning literature.

Approaches to conceptual and participatory model building

The two processes both link, and enhance each other in learning-based initiatives such as participatory or cooperative model-building. Often one of the best techniques for generating improved thinking at a social level is to use models as an aid to help stakeholders visualize the wider social and bio-physical processes that they cannot see unaided. Many forms of modelling can be used in this way, and underlying methodologies cover such things as conceptual modelling to help build a shared graphical representation of the problem situation, and participatory modelling which involves stakeholders in different aspects of the modelling process.

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