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best practices, and questions about KM in
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Historical information for Knowledge Management Industry
May 21, 2010 at 10:57 am #100992
A rather good, if lengthy (~3800 words) introduction to KM…
An excerpt from the book
Knowledge Management, Business Intelligence, and Content Management: The IT Practitioner’s Guide Auerbach Publications,
The New Intelligence: The Birth of the Knowledge Management Industry
by Jessica Keyes
The introduction of computers led to an unmanageable proliferation of data, which stimulated the birth of knowledge management (KM). To understand KM and all of its components (i.e., business intelligence, content management, etc.), it is necessary to first discuss the precursors to KM.
1. Buried in Information
Magicians, who are masters of optical illusions, convince breathless audiences that their tricks work by magic. But the tricks really result from precision sleight of hand, split-second timing, and careful planning. And Merlin’s code prevents the brotherhood of magicians from ever whispering its secrets. Knowledge is all that separates the knowing from the unknowing, the magician from the audience. Knowledge is elusive (especially in large organizations), inconsistent, unripe, and buried in information.
Pick up a copy of The New York Times. There is more information contained between the front and back pages than we can possibly digest. Add to this the other 99 papers we will read this year, the 3000 notices or forms that we will read or complete, the 2463 hours of television we will watch, the 730 hours of radio we will listen to, and you have something called an information explosion.
According to Linda Costigan Lederman (1986), who devised these statistics for her piece “Communication in the Workplace,” this does not even take into account the number of hours spent exchanging information in conversations. And should we not include information that is signaled by nonverbal means, such as the wink of an eye, a firm handshake, or a nod of the head.
Soothsayers predict that the amount of information that we are expected to absorb will double every four to five years. Even now, more information has been generated for mass distribution in the last three decades than in the previous five thousand years.
Maybe it is more than an information explosion; perhaps it is more like a glut. And with this glut comes the breakdown of our ability to mess with or even retrieve the information we so labor to possess. Akio Morita, former chairman of Sony Corporation, believes that our capacity to retrieve this information is declining. In fact, he believes that out of all the information that we absorb, we can retrieve from our memories only a paltry five percent.
Alvin Toffler, in his much-acclaimed book Future Shock (1984), paints an even bleaker picture. He writes of an actual breakdown of human performance under these extraordinary information loads and demonstrates its relationship to psychopathology. Work is increasingly being done in one’s head rather than at the desk, as we try to cope with managing this massive information overdose. The information that we must assimilate has become more abstract as technological innovators find new, clever ways to present it. And we do not just process one stream of data bits at a time. Some researchers refer to our need to deal with more than one information flow at a time as polyphasic activity. Visualize Sam riding his convertible to his next meeting. He grips the steering wheel in his left hand, a cellular phone in his right, and on his lap rests his miniature tape recorder. And in the passenger seat is his UltraLite computer.
May 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm #101002
It will be interesting to see what happens as the Digital Generation takes the helm of Government. It seems that this generation thoroughly embraces “polyphasic activity”. It is perfectly natural for them to interact using multiple communication streams: electonic communications surrounding school and work (usually email); more than one social media or gaming environment; and of course in-person communication (“real space”). Although a bit frightening to those of us not part of the Digital Generation, we should embrace this new mode of collaboration and see how to leverage its power. We may not be able to absorb any additional information in our brains, however successfully navigating multiple information flows promises to foster creativity and innovation. Who knows what could be discovered?
May 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm #101000
Very well said, knowledge will remain ever eluding illusion. The biggest evil in the 21st century with exploding information super highway is distortion. There will be more maya and adept play of data in the ocean of complexity. Government is its efforts to demonstrate transparency will inundate citizens with information more than they can process. Likewise in the http://www.usaspending.gov, the new version released yesterday in all its master craftsmanship of democratizing the data, while making it more accountable and transparent, is still very illusive.
The magicians and ther skill for obfuscation will keep pushing common citizens into more deluding realities. Yes, unfortunately humans faintly remember past, barely are conscious (unconscious mind 80% higher) and are oblivious of the future.
Knowledge Management will be used, as it have always been as a decoy or as a clever ploy to engineer perceptions, as it has happened in the last century.
How real are the data in http://www.usaspending.gov, and what do we assimilate from it?
May 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm #100998
@Srinidhi Regarding your comment on “exploding information” and “Government is its efforts to demonstrate transparency will inundate citizens with information more than they can process.”
A while ago I started a discussion on the question that “Among the barriers to the advance of social media how important is “Information overload”?” You can see it at:
There is an issue, I think, with any information explosion that we may cope with resulting coginitive strain by relying on intermediaries that do the filtering for us and then we may be manipulated by their filtering agenda and biases.
There is more general Q of “when does the use of social media become excessive?” Sone suggest that we should start limiting our hours devoted to online interaction. For example, Lifehacker recently suggested ‘people try the “Slow Media Diet” consisting of minimized computer use outside of work purposes. ‘
This is a fear reaction to the belief that amount of real face-to-face socializing is decreasing as the web and related tools becomes increasingly easier to access.
May 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm #100996
Thank you for the Jessica Keyes’ New Intelligence article which discussed “buried intelligence”. She cites some older work and to it I would point to the earlier publications on Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut by David Shenk.
When it wrote about the smog he was introdued by updwardss of 3,000 discrete messages that descend on people every day. We didn’t have tweets then but a single message was anything from an “item in the news to a television or radio commercial to an email to a newspaper editorial to a whispered intimacy by that special someone.”
Together these messages account for more than 1,000,000 words—the equivalent of twelve to fifteen book-length novels—per week.
But to put this in an alarming perspective, “Data Smog” was published in 1997, before the explosion of email spam, cell phones and social media!
This all relates to the information explosion challenge of my earlier post on this topic.
May 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm #100994
Brian (Bo) NewmanParticipant
It is quite common for KM authors to include some type of look back at the early days of KM, especially the early perceptions on what is KM. One collection of such perceptions that continues to be referenced (see link below), dates from 1996 as KM was just emerging. Some of those quoted you may recognize, others maybe not.
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