Knowledge management and learning


Interesting how the terms knowledge management and learning are sometimes used almost interchangeably when they indeed refer to distinct things, as pointed out by Julie Ferguson her meta-review of literature reviews on KM. The author prepared this review in the framework of the Information / Knowledge Management emergent (IKM emergent) programme sponsored by DGIS, the Dutch Directorate for international development cooperation.
At the same time, both terms also refer to a slightly different focus: while KM is still widely used, its meaning seems to be related more closely to the first generation of KM initiatives aiming at codifying and almost “copying” knowledge from people’s heads to information databases. This is particularly the point of view of the beacons of ‘organisational learning’ who tend to have a desire to distance themselves from KM heads… Isn’t it all a question of words?

And yet, words are still resurfacing in the debates on IM, KM, learning etc. because we have not yet found a way that makes sense to everybody to explain what is the difference between learning, knowledge and information and the interaction between these three terms.

On the other hand, if I had to focus on either of the terms, I would probably choose learning. Indeed it sounds more interesting, in the sense that it is through the action of using knowledge (as opposed to e.g. managing it) that learning happens and that individual experiences and insights can be shared and more completely (but not entirely) experienced by others.

Will there be a new term to encompass knowledge management, learning and other related aspects in the future? Using just existing words, learning coordination would give more justice to the actual interests of the people working on KM (for development)… Indeed knowledge, learning etc. do not matter and interest us (me!) as such, but the capacity to use knowledge and to learn gradually to identify what is required to advance our living and social conditions is the real challenge. In this sense, learning coordination is really that good old afternoon gone fishing to understand what it takes to catch some food for one’s own consumption… words change, images stay… Images should indeed be the next KM (shall I say LC?) issue to focus on?

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