For me, it’s quite simple: knowledge is not tangible and is certainly not a commodity. And the noun ‘knowledge’ itself sometimes leads to delusional assumptions about what knowledge is. I find it more fruitful to think of knowledge as two different things:
- Knowledge is a latent capacity that we call upon to combine information available with various insights we have from past experiences, and use it in a given context.
- Knowledge is also the collection of insights that we have in ourselves, based on information, emotions and intuitions we have. It is in that collection of insights that we tap to use our ‘knowledge capacity’ or our ‘capacity to know’.
|Knowledge as a commodity||Knowledge as a capacity|
|Knowledge is the embodied result of ‘knowing’ (possessing the knowledge)||Knowledge is the emerging property of learning (developing new insights / knowledge)|
|Knowledge is universal – it has generic properties, it is ‘self contained’; it exists as is||Knowledge is personal – it is the result of a combination of personal factors. It becomes itself when mixed with insights from experience.|
|Knowledge is rather static – it represents the ‘knowledge’ we have and changes only every so often, when it is ‘updated’ by some people, experts (e.g. peer-reviewed academic publications) or not (as on Wikipedia)||Knowledge is dynamic – it keeps changing whenever it is invoked by anyone, anywhere – it is multi-faceted and ubiquitous|
|Knowledge can be transferred (one on one)||Knowledge can be shared (but it gets necessarily recombined – it is not shared one on one either)|
|Knowledge can be stored (in a knowledge bank or base?)||Knowledge cannot be stored – but insights shared can be codified, turned into information and stored (in an information bank, database or else)|
|Knowledge can be developed in writing||Knowledge can be developed, stimulated / augmented (the capacity of using information can be increased) through social learning, thus not in writing. Information, however, can be put in writing, based on available knowledge (expertise)|
|Knowledge can be assessed – e.g. by theoretical ‘knowledge’ tests (how much do you know about x, y, z) – in a rather clear, straightforward 1/0 way||Knowledge can be assessed by practical knowledge and know-how tests (how can you respond to challenge x, y, z) but it remains a fuzzy process|
|Knowledge can be managed||Knowledge cannot be managed but its development and sharing can be stimulated and elicited – the environment that stimulates knowledge, however, can be managed (working on processes, tools, cultural values etc. to enable the development and sharing of knowledge)|
|Knowledge management is essentially information management: collecting knowledge and getting it to the right person at the right time to deal with challenges at hand||Knowledge management is essentially knowledge sharing and it is about learning conversations that stimulate everyone’s ability to respond better to their own challenges|