KM is not an oxymoron
“Knowledge Management” is not an oxymoron, the term is merely being read the wrong way round.
One primary argument against the term “Knowledge Management” is that knowledge cannot be managed. Knowledge is an intangible, is personal and context specific, and is not an object in it’s own right, so how can it be managed? Therefore the term is an Oxymoron.
However the management of intangibles is common practice in the business world. Talent management, Quality Management, Customer Relationship management, Brand management, Reputation management, Environmental management; all are established disciplines which make up part of good management practice in many businesses, and are concerned with managing intangibles.
Take Safety Management. Safety is personal and context specific, and is not an object in it’s own right, and yet nobody seems to object to the term “Safety Management”. Nobody calls it an oxymoron. Safety management is not about the collection and movement of items of safety, but its about attitudes and behaviours. It’s about how you manage, when you want to improve safety. Its Safety-based management.
Why is Knowledge Management different? Knowledge management is not about the collection and movement of tangible particles of knowledge – herding knowledge as if it were sheep – but it is about attitudes and behaviours.
Knowledge Management does not mean “the Management of Knowledge”, it means “Knowledge-based Management”, or “Management with attention to Knowledge”.
The management of any intangible – Safety, Risk, Quality, Knowledge – requires putting in place a Management Framework where decisions are made, and actions are taken, in full cognisance of the importance and value of that intangible. Knowledge management requires means putting in place a Knowledge Management Framework where expectations are set, roles are assigned, processes and tools are available, actions are taken and behaviours are developed and sustained, to maximise the value of the know-how of the organisation.
Knowledge needs Management just as much as Management needs Knowledge. The term is not an oxymoron.
(For those of you who prefer the term “Knowledge Sharing”, this is part of knowledge management, but you also need knowledge seeking, knowledge creation, knowledge synthesis and knowledge re-use. Sharing on its own is not enough).