Knowledge has an expiry date

Knowledge has a half-life, and therefore an expiry date.

This is the intriguing premise behind a new book by Sam Arbesman, called “the half life of facts”. 

The book, described in the video below, focuses primarily on academic facts and on science, and finds a half-life of 44 years, for example, for medical knowledge about hepatitis.

Business knowledge has an even shorter half life.

Probably half the things you knew about your business ten years ago, are wrong now. And expired knowledge, like expired food, is dangerous. It can lead to wrong decisions, wrong judgments, and big errors.

The implication for Knowledge Management is important.

  • As well as creating, discussing and storing new knowledge, we need to be able to remove and delete the old knowledge
  • Our knowledge bases need a regular overhaul and spring clean, which is why it is better to house them as a wiki – continually updated – than as a folder full of files, many of which become obsolete
  • Our lessons systems should be lessons management systems which pass lessons through to completion, and then archive them, rather than passive databases clogged up with lessons beyond their expiration date.
  • Knowledge,once captured, needs to be owned and maintained, which means out with the old, as well as in with the new.

I posted a while ago about “knowledge management as gardening”, and part of gardening is Pruning.

So be aware of the knowledge half-life, and beware of the knowledge which is too old to be safe.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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