What is common knowledge about knowledge? A visual tour…

The brain of a knowledge worker - and that is just the beginning (Credits: unclear)
Knowledge from a KM perspective? (Credits: unclear)

Knowledge is the all elusive complex concept. And visuals help represent complex concepts.

So for a change I thought I’d give a commented visit on a number of images about knowledge, found on the net. I don’t necessarily agree with what these images convey, but I have chosen to comment these ones because they seem to be popular on the web and generally in common knowledge.

This first one (the KM phrenology) is one picture that I used in the past – an interesting image because it depicts a lot of issues related to knowledge in the field of knowledge management. But of course it’s not meant to really represent knowledge and the picture is dated (over emphasis on ‘best practices’, looking at portals etc.).

Knowledge coffee (not cafe mind you)
Knowledge coffee (not cafe mind you)

This second picture is much more related to knowledge itself and represents the diversity of attributes associated (the coffee cup) with knowledge, with a higher emphasis on know-how/what/who/why and the definition of knowledge as ‘justified true belief’. It’s a useful image to remember all the angles that people associate knowledge with. A mine field indeed, or a rather spicy cup of coffee.

A KM mindmap of knowledge
A KM mindmap of knowledge

This third picture is a mini mind map of knowledge from a KM perspective again. It brings together four concepts typically associated with knowledge: tacit knowledge, knowledge conversion, explicit knowledge and information. I have my doubts about a few of these nodes – information and explicit knowledge are the same for me, and the graph itself seems to have been around for a while.

Is the world knowledge tree really growing?  (credits - unclear)
Is the world knowledge tree really growing? (credits – unclear)

But this graph again puts knowledge at the centre of KM attention and is useful to understand what are some of the key KM concepts associated with it.

The next one (the tree on the world) I quite like, as it represents the proverbial knowledge tree while also resting on the entire world. Somehow the idea that our knowledge is growing as a tree on the basis of global and local interactions is compelling. Let’s just hope that the branches (the results of knowledge) are not outpacing the roots of that knowledge tree (the sources that lead to develop knowledge results).

Knowledge in the DIKW nonsense (Credits - David McCandless)
Knowledge in the DIKW nonsense (Credits – David McCandless)

The next one is the unavoidable depictions of knowledge: knowledge as part of the DIKW pyramid.

It is no less wrong at that though – and I already blogged about this. But here you go: old established fallacies die at long last.

The next selected image (Superman) is another very commonplace portrayal of knowledge and its associations: knowledge is power.

Knowledge is power (Credits - Tiffany and Lupus)
Knowledge is power (Credits – Tiffany and Lupus)

I think this image does true justice to question (by stupidity) this saying which deserves additional caution. Sharing knowledge is more powerful in the age of networks…

Next (the blue face) is one new entry for knowledge which mirrors the first of these images but really focuses on all the insights that lay inside our head and are ready to be called and acted upon.

Knowledge as the collection of insights ready for sense-making
Knowledge as the collection of insights ready for sense-making

To me this is perhaps the closest depiction of what knowledge is – insights that can be invoked and used as and when. The image still  misses the dimension of the capacity that knowledge brings to use these insights, as I blogged about it earlier, but it’s getting there in my eyes.

And finally, building upon the previous image, what – really – is knowledge without action? A former boss of mine used to always ask ‘knowledge to do what?’ and that’s a bang on question. For that matter, knowledge management has been useless in many cases for failing to answer this simple question. So from this gallery of images, perhaps the most important to retain is that without using knowledge we are not better off with it.

What is knowledge without action (credits - Hiking artist)
What is knowledge without action (credits – Hiking artist)

If you have other personal ‘knowledge visualisation favourites’, please share them with me and I will feature them here with due credits!

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Thank you again @md_santo and @joachim

    @Joachim: I answered on G+ as you will have seen. This makes a lot more sense and I will add your circle to this post later. It makes sense to me – but the knowledge stock 😉 Thanks for the time explaining this.

    @MD_Santo: I would love to meet you in person some time and go through this and other fascinating ideas you seem to have. The graph still doesn’t really make sense to me: that’s where knowledge is illustrated as information in use (or in exhibit by someone else?): I need your guiding me through your information garden to reap some fruits from your rich knowledge soil 😉

  2. @Ewen,
    To make it in more “simple” terms, we treat knowledge as “flow or thing” within DIKW continuum as well as “consciousness” within Nature Knowledge continuum. The following are our links that will answer the issues of Knowledge in more practical and comprehensive way : http://bit.ly/GUIvoN – (“Comprehensive Guide to Taxonomy of Future Knowledge ” ) and http://t.co/SZVsezmi -(“We are KM regulated by Nature, and by nature we are KM model”)

  3. Thank you Joachim and Md Santo!
    @Joachim: I’ll pin this one on Pinterest, thanks for the lead. I would love to hear what you mean with this in details though.

    @MD Santo: This sounds difficult to understand but I sense there’s a lot of really interesting ideas. Could you also explain in more simple terms what your take on knowledge is? And do you have any graph that supports that vision?

  4. • From Nature Knowledge Theory (NKT), Knowledge is always consciousness attributed

    • Our Nature Knowledge Theory (NKT) – based Taxonomy of Modern Knowledge : Knowledge generated from Nature Knowledge Continuum origin compared with DIKW Continuum should included in terms of their “Source of Consciousness as Knowledge attribute”, “Knowledge considered as Flow/Thing or Consciousness”, “Format of Knowledge”, “Terms Given and the Features of the domain”, “Knowledge Assessment”, “Methodology of Science”, “Definition of Knowledge” and “Eclectic Definition of Knowledge Management” ( see http://bit.ly/GUIvoN – “Comprehensive Guide to Taxonomy of Future Knowledge ” )

    • Nature Knowledge Theory (NKT) – is a theory developed and based on adoption to paradigm of “The Universe or the Nature Knowledge is the source and center of Consciousness” rather than “Mind Brain or Human Being is the source and center of Consciousness”. Nature Knowledge Theory (NKT) considers the Universe as an psycho-somatic entity. We believed the development of NKT model framework and its derivatives will facilitate the processes on how we will be able to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics toward Theory of Everything (TOE). The basic consideration in using NKT based on simple rational of human living reality, …” The Universe knows something we don’t. And it acts on cosmic scales”…..

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