E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

The World Is Round

Earlier on today, a colleague of mine at work shared with me an interesting article that not only is it thought-provoking but it could also mark the success, or not, from all of this social software and Web 2.0 related technologies hype that is going on at the moment. You may think that I may have been a bit too harsh with that statement but I think that after you read through it you would see where I am coming from and how I may not have been that far off after all. That is how impressive the article is. It is written by one of the well known Knowledge Management thinkers and gurus out there, Laurence Prusak, and is titled: The World Is Round.

Larry, currently a contributor over at the Babsonknowledge.org weblog (Another worth while subscribing KM weblog) along with Tom Davenport and Don Cohen, comes to talk about the misunderstanding that quite a few people seem to be having nowadays perhaps regarding information and knowledge. And part of it due to the concepts explained further in The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman where it is mentioned how the current state of things in the 21st century seems to have accelerated the flow of information on a worldwide level and consequently made this world flat.

I must say that I haven’t read the book just yet, but Larry is certainly spot on in a couple of remarks that he has included in the second part of the article and which I think would be worth while quoting over here:

What’s the difference between information and knowledge? Information is a message, one-dimensional and bounded by its form: a document, an image, a speech, a genome, a recipe, a symphony score. You can package it and instantly distribute it to anyone, anywhere. […]” (Emphasis mine)

[…] Knowledge results from the assimilation and connecting of information through experience, most often through apprenticeship or mentoring […] Knowledge is time-consuming and expensive to develop, retain, and transfer—and that’s as true for organizations and countries as it is for individuals. […] One billion people on the Internet means there are five and a half billion people who aren’t on it. Bringing those people into the global conversation is essential to achieving true democratization of knowledge” (Emphasis mine)

And, finally, this gem towards the end of the article that I just couldn’t help quoting over here as well:

Until our governments, NGOs, schools, corporations, and other institutions embrace the idea that knowledge—not information—is the key to prosperity, most of the world’s people will remain a world apart

WOW! What a statement, right? Well, he does have a very good point and I think it is worth while reminding ourselves where we are with both information and knowledge. Right now, all this hype going on about social software and social networking and its many tools is just probably preparing the way; yes, indeed, helping spread the information but somehow we may not be there just yet. We need to move up and transition into that knowledge culture that would allow everyone to convert successfully that information into knowledge which can be put into practice by being able to reuse it successfully.

So you may be wondering how is social software and social networking going to help out with this transition from an information era into a knowledge era? Well, if you have been reading this weblog already for some time, I think you can envision what I feel would be the main two components that could certainly provide and help facilitate that transition: indeed, communities (Of Practice, of Interest, of Purpose, etc. etc. you name it) and and collaboration, not only inside of the communities themselves but also in between different communities. They may be perhaps the two main key aspects that could accelerate the embracing of knowledge coming from a very strong information background that we can all see right now with this social media. And something tells me that this may be a breaking point as well that would differentiate the key role that communities would be playing within whatever the organism or organisation. Thus do you think we are ready to make that shift yet? Or is it still a bit early? What do you think ?

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  1. Thanks a bunch, Bill for dropping by and welcome!

    I really appreciate you have shared some comments in here linking to one of your blog posts as I have enjoyed it thoroughly. What great points indeed ! I agree with you that all this hype about the connectivity and spreading of information will certainly not materialise in knowledge. It just doesn’t work that way, regardless of what some people may say. And I think that you hit the nail on the head when you identified that informal learning, while at work, is the new imperative to make it work; to facilitate the transition from that information sharing to that knowledge acquisition. And the way I see it is that all of those different connections for gathering information are just enablers that would facilitate the harvesting of that knowledge and corresponding collaboration; but they would be just that, enablers, not the final result of a successful KM strategy. And I feel that is something that we should very consciously take into account, otherwise we would be falling again in the same trap all over.

    Thus thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for the link. Great stuff!

  2. Luis
    I enjoyed reading this post. Here is my take on this : I feel there are many communities out which focus on knowledge per se.Wikipedia is a great example. It has the community and the collaboration factor you are speaking about.I disagree with Prusak when he says that information alone may not help people.Here in India,there is an initiative called e-Choupal (meaning “village meeting place”)which allows farmers to check prices in local auction houses and the prices of soyabean futures at the Chicago board of trade.This basic information helps farmers make more margins and lead a better life.Just being aware of the price of a commodity can transform the lives of people.Focus on connectivity and information.Sensemaking will follow-that is an emergent property!!

  3. Thanks for the comments, Dinesh ! I am not able to check the link you may have potentially included under e-Choupal, since it doesn’t seem to be active, but I still think that I would agree with Larry in this particular sense. The example you provided, for instance, is just a good indication of how information gets applied in a particular scenario using some sensemaking and therefore applying it for a very particular scenario in order to achieve something. That to me, is applying knowledge based on a piece of information, which I think is what Larry was referring to, as opposed to just digest information over and over again without context and without the urge of potentially re-using it at some point in time based on what they have just learned. And I think that is the actual key to Larry’s article: make use of information through different learning processes in order to be able to then facilitate its transfer.

  4. Thanks, Dinesh, for the comments and for sharing the actual link! What an interesting web site, indeed! Although I still think that the way information flows over there would just be the beginning to that acquired knowledge through learning and experiences shared, it would certainly be a very good start towards helping build those knowledge resources that could then well be reused at a later time not only by themselves but by others who may benefit from that as well.

    Thanks again for the feedback input! I have got a couple of other comments but I will get to share them over at your blog post on the same subject later on. Need to work on them a bit more.

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