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Re: Wanna get provocative?

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  • Chris Kimble
    ... ... Hi Brownyn, much as I might enjoy seeing this discussion revived, haven t we been here before? See the thread(s) Knowledge Management - the Emperor s
    Message 1 of 12 , Nov 21, 2002
      --- In com-prac@y..., Brownyn Stuckey <bstuckey@u...> wrote:
      > Couldn't resist sending you this URL...
      >
      > http://informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html
      >
      > The nonsense of 'knowledge management'
      > T.D. Wilson
      ...

      Hi Brownyn,
      much as I might enjoy seeing this discussion revived, haven't we
      been here before?

      See the thread(s) "Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new clothes?"
      and "Re(2): [cp] Re: Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new
      clothes?" starting at:

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/com-prac/message/2616
    • Brownyn Stuckey
      Chris, Thanks for the polite nudge. I must admit I was so busy working offline lately that I saw the subjects of comprac messages breeze past me and did not
      Message 2 of 12 , Nov 21, 2002
        Chris,
        Thanks for the polite nudge.
        I must admit I was so busy working offline lately that I saw the subjects of
        comprac messages breeze past me and did not read them. OK so now I will go
        back and read - just completing the circle ;-)

        Bronwyn




        Quoting Chris Kimble <kimble@...>:

        > --- In com-prac@y..., Brownyn Stuckey <bstuckey@u...> wrote:
        > > Couldn't resist sending you this URL...
        > >
        > > http://informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html
        > >
        > > The nonsense of 'knowledge management'
        > > T.D. Wilson
        > ...
        >
        > Hi Brownyn,
        > much as I might enjoy seeing this discussion revived, haven't we
        > been here before?
        >
        > See the thread(s) "Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new clothes?"
        > and "Re(2): [cp] Re: Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new
        > clothes?" starting at:
        >
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/com-prac/message/2616
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > ::: http://www.egroups.com/group/com-prac
        > ::: Email com-prac-unsubscribe@egroups.com to unsubscribe
        >
        >
        >
        > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • keith_pk
        what if we have been here before, returning to `old `subjects are a consequence of using an asynchronous communications medium, and shouldn t be seen as
        Message 3 of 12 , Nov 22, 2002
          what if we have been here before, returning to `old `subjects are a
          consequence of using an asynchronous communications medium, and
          shouldn't be seen as negative as new perspectives may be revealed,
          if you aren't interested in the post skip to the next tread or
          message. And Prof Wilson has a habit of returning to the same
          issues/conversation as I have come across his contributions on the
          relationship between IM and KM several times over the last year
          indifferent places, proving useful reminder to ensure we don't take
          things for granted or without review.

          Keith

          --- In com-prac@y..., "Chris Kimble" <kimble@c...> wrote:
          > --- In com-prac@y..., Brownyn Stuckey <bstuckey@u...> wrote:
          > > Couldn't resist sending you this URL...
          > >
          > > http://informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html
          > >
          > > The nonsense of 'knowledge management'
          > > T.D. Wilson
          > ...
          >
          > Hi Brownyn,
          > much as I might enjoy seeing this discussion revived, haven't we
          > been here before?
          >
          > See the thread(s) "Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new
          clothes?"
          > and "Re(2): [cp] Re: Knowledge Management - the Emperor's new
          > clothes?" starting at:
          >
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/com-prac/message/2616
        • Fred Nickols
          I really like the subject line of this thread. So, yeah, I wanna get provocative ! Regarding Professor Wilson s article (link provided by Bronwyn Stuckey),
          Message 4 of 12 , Nov 23, 2002
            I really like the subject line of this thread. So, yeah, I wanna get
            provocative !

            Regarding Professor Wilson's article (link provided by Bronwyn Stuckey),
            Marco Bettoni writes:

            >I gave a quick look under "expert systems": Wilson does not understand that
            >the essence of work in expert systems (a type of knowledge-based system)
            >consists in making tacit knowledge explicit: it's hard work and few people
            >understand how to do it effectively but in general what results from that
            >work cannot simply be labelled as "information" (I could show you this, but
            >it would require a paper ...).

            If by "making tacit knowledge explicit," you are referring to the ways in
            which an expert systems "knowledge engineer" supposedly "captures" or
            "makes explicit" the "tacit knowledge" of someone usually referred to in AI
            or expert systems work as the "domain expert," I disagree with your
            assertion above. Further, if it takes a paper to show me this, I would be
            delighted to read and comment on it. If you have to write it first, I will
            happily wait.

            In my experience, what so-called "knowledge engineers" really do is assist
            the equally so-called "domain experts" in articulating the kind of
            knowledge that can be articulated (which I refer to as making implicit
            knowledge explicit). Task analysts have been doing this for more than 100
            years. But the tacit knowledge, the kind that can't be articulated, by
            definition can't be articulated. Another thing knowledge engineers do is
            devise new routines and processes that typically (a) can be carried out via
            a program and (b) are consequently much more consistent and cost-effective.

            Example: I used to "pick the brains" of claims examiners, insurance
            underwriters and others who engage in a class of work I call
            "adjudication." When done, we usually had one of two products: (1) a set
            of documented decision-making processes for performing the work in question
            (usually in the form of flowcharts and decision tables and/or (2) a set of
            algorithms that could be and often were incorporated into a computer
            program, thus automating the work previously performed by people. But,
            unlike some others I could name, not once did I ever think I was capturing
            or making tacit knowledge explicit. I was simply devising a work routine
            that could apply a set of decision-making rules to a specified array of
            decision-making situations and consistently come up with the correct
            resolution or underwriting decision.

            > > The author then provides a reasonable (if short) account of "tacit
            > knowledge" as
            > > originally described by Polanyi
            >When Wilson writes that a paper in the Journal of Management Information
            >Systems quotes Polanyi
            >
            > "but assuming, wrongly, that tacit knowledge can be made explicit"
            >
            >he is himself wrong in his conception of "tacit knowledge". Polanyi seems to
            >consider tacit knowledge as knowledge that cannot be made explicit, but this
            >is a strong simplification of his conception. In any case, even if I would
            >agree that that is what Polanyi thinks, I would not follow that path in my
            >own thinking, because it leads nowhere.

            Why does it lead nowhere? It seems to me that ruling out making tacit
            knowledge explicit serves a numer of useful purposes:

            It leads to a focus on making implicit knowledge explicit
            It leads to a focus on better means of developing tacit knowledge
            instead of futile efforts to capture it
            It leads to a focus on better ways and means of communicating
            explicit knowledge

            All three of those are important avenues for further exploration and
            effort. Why is that leading nowhere?

            >I use since almost 22 years a concept of "tacit" knowledge that includes the
            >possibility of making it explicit, and it works. Of course, the results is
            >only a kind of "shadow" of its original, but a shadow is something, not
            >nothing: if I see a shadow of a person walking around my house at midnight,
            >I will be able to take some actions ...
            >
            > > The author then looks briefly at the
            > > idea that knowledge management should be more concerned with people than
            > > technology and concludes, finally, that knowledge management "is, in large
            > > part, a management fad, promulgated mainly by certain consultancy
            >companies,
            > > and the probability is that it will fade away like previous fads."
            >That "knowledge management should be more concerned with people" has been
            >said since the beginning by many KM specialists: the problem is that they
            >could not find ways of HOW TO DO that, how to implement that need (leading
            >principle) into sustainable KM solutions.

            I agree that people have often been pointed to as the proper focal point
            for KM efforts but that is usually in the context of claiming that whatever
            it is those darn human beings know and however it is that they know it, it
            can be captured and locked up in a computer where it can be controlled and
            managed and disseminated at will by those who run the show. Whether that
            is because those taking this approach to KM are doing it because they don't
            know how to do the other (and, by the way, would you be so kind as to
            enlighten us as to the other approach) or because they genuinely believe in
            what they're doing or because they're simply jumping on the latest
            bandwagon is immaterial. Machine-based KM comes perilously close to being
            a scam.

            >I think that Etienne's CoP model is the most convincing answer to that need
            >at present.

            It, too, is perilously close to being captured by the
            "let's-put-it-all-in-the-computer" crowd.

            > > He continues, "according to the rhetoric of 'knowledge management', 'mind'
            > > becomes 'manageable', the content of mind can be captured or
            > down-loaded and
            > > the accountant's dream of people-free production, distribution and sales is
            > > realized - 'knowledge' is now in the database, recoverable at any time."
            >
            >This is also known since long time: it is what (most of the) managers expect
            >from KM projects. Why? Because of two main (and tightly connected) resons:
            >1) because it is consistent with their conventional ways of dealing with
            >resources: financial resources, technological resources, space resources,
            >human resources delevering accomplished tasks.
            >2) because they do not understand the "knowledge challenge" (see Etrienne's
            >new book).

            I haven't read Etienne's new book yet. I guess I'll have to do that right
            away.

            >The relevant point:
            >knowledge management is not a 'nonsense' in general but only as long as we
            >cannot find ways to implement answers to the need that it "should be more
            >concerned with people".

            Given the masters the current form of KM serves, God forbid their attention
            should turn to people.

            >But there are ways to do that kind of knowledge management (as I mentioned,
            >for instance the CoP model)!

            I think the gist of Marco's post is that CoPs are a means of "doing" KM the
            "proper" way. That view, spread widely enough, would likely sound the
            death knell for efforts to nurture and culture CoPs and lead instead to a
            frenzied burst of activity aimed at finally getting those damned knowledge
            workers back under the control of management. Such an effort would of
            course come to naught and the bruisers would turn their attention
            elsewhere, probably to the latest fad/silver bullet.

            >Unfortunately prof. Wilsons seems not aware of them or misses the potential
            >of those opportunities.

            I don't know. I thought he was simply focused on critiquing and
            criticizing much of the current computer-centric approach to KM as largely
            nonsense. It didn't seem to me that his objective was to present an
            alternative. Maybe I missed something.

            Fred Nickols
            nickols@...
          • Walker Geoff
            ... This is certainly my understanding of Tom s postion and I admire his criticism of this. On the other hand, he seems to have successfully opened up the
            Message 5 of 12 , Nov 25, 2002
              Fred Nickols (23/11/02 21:48):
              >I don't know. I thought he was simply focused on critiquing and
              >criticizing much of the current computer-centric approach to KM as largely
              >nonsense.
              This is certainly my understanding of Tom's postion and I admire his criticism
              of this.
              On the other hand, he seems to have successfully opened up the debate on
              whether or not tacit knowledge can be made explicit on this and other lists.
              Unfortunately, I cannot foresee a conclusion to the debate...Perhaps there
              isn't one...(I think of Wittgenstein's poker in this context!)

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            • Fred Nickols
              ... Could you provide your definition of tacit knowledge and an example of it that has been or could be made explicit? Thanks. Fred Nickols nickols@safe-t.net
              Message 6 of 12 , Nov 25, 2002
                Scott Allen writes:

                >Tacit knowledge isn't knowledge that can't be made explicit - it's
                >knowledge that's not cost-effective to make explicit.

                Could you provide your definition of tacit knowledge and an example of it
                that has been or could be made explicit?

                Thanks.

                Fred Nickols
                nickols@...
              • Fred Nickols
                ... Until persuaded otherwise, I belong to the second camp. I don t think the which one is it? question is answerable; it might be debatable and it is almost
                Message 7 of 12 , Nov 26, 2002
                  Tony writes in part:

                  >It seems like there are two "camps" on this forum: 1. Tacit knowledge can
                  >be made explicit and therefore transfered to others and 2. Tacit knowledge,
                  >by its nature, can't be made explicit and we are kidding ourselves if we
                  >think it can.
                  >
                  >So, which one is it? And why does it matter to this forum?

                  Until persuaded otherwise, I belong to the second camp.

                  I don't think the "which one is it?" question is answerable; it might be
                  debatable and it is almost certainly arguable, but I don't think it can be
                  resolved right now because it is essentially a matter of belief. In my
                  case, it's a very strong belief and strong beliefs are very difficult to
                  change.

                  As for why it should matter to this forum, I can right away think of two
                  big reasons: (1) knowledge relevant to a practice lies at the heart of a
                  CoP and is a central issue in supporting them and (2) those bent on
                  managing knowledge are sure to seize on CoPs as a means of "doing" KM.

                  As a practical matter, I don't know that the two views, even if opposing,
                  are all that significant. If knowledge, tacit or otherwise, is reflected
                  in the capacity for action, it seems clear to me that any given capacity
                  for action can be developed in people who don't currently possess it. In
                  other words, they can learn it and we can help them learn it. Helping
                  someone learn to recognize a face (or other patterned configurations)
                  needn't and probably couldn't hinge on articulating how a face is
                  recognized. Helping someone learn to ride a bicycle needn't and probably
                  couldn't hinge on articulating how one rides a bicycle. In short, whether
                  or not tacit knowledge can be articulated, articulating it isn't
                  necessarily central to developing it in others. Thus, the basic reason the
                  issue is important is that if you think tacit knowledge can be articulated
                  and if you think articulating it is important, it is my view that you will
                  be spinning your wheels instead of moving forward.

                  Fred Nickols
                  nickols@...
                • Larry Irons
                  ... ... Bron, I ve read this thread and enjoyed the debate that your citation elicited in the community. I don t post much here but always follow
                  Message 8 of 12 , Nov 26, 2002
                    --- In com-prac@y..., Brownyn Stuckey <bstuckey@u...> wrote:
                    > Couldn't resist sending you this URL...

                    <<big snip>>

                    > Tell us what you think!
                    >
                    > Bron

                    Bron, I've read this thread and enjoyed the debate that your citation
                    elicited in the community. I don't post much here but always follow
                    the discussions. I guess I really only have one point to make about
                    the way "tacit knowledge" is dealt with by the knowledge management
                    thinkers...they need to read more than Polanyi in order to grasp the
                    way tacit knowledge enables us to practice our daily routines,
                    whether those routines are in information intensive settings or
                    otherwise. No one ever mentions Alfred Schutz, Harvey Sacks, Harold
                    Garfinkel or any of the other people who also spent a lot of time
                    thinking about tacit knowledge and in much more relevant ways to
                    practice than did Polanyi. Sure, he was among the first to explicitly
                    discuss the concept (though Schutz's "natural attitude" concept came
                    close as did Merleau-Ponty on perception), but Polanyi is by no means
                    an authority on what the concept of tacit knowledge implies in
                    relation to the way people go about doing what they do in their
                    everyday lives, whatever the setting.

                    Anyway, don't mean to deflect the discussion into a different
                    direction but I do think Polanyi is just given too much authoritative
                    status in the debates people have over tacit knowledge. Been reading
                    Paul Dourish Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied
                    Interaction lately and I guess that set me off. I'll go back to
                    lurking.

                    Larry Irons
                  • Scott Allen
                    ... it ... Sure. Actually, I already did. I consider tacit knowledge that knowledge which is not cost-effective to make explicit. Read on, and I ll explain.
                    Message 9 of 12 , Nov 27, 2002
                      I originally wrote:
                      >Tacit knowledge isn't knowledge that can't be made explicit - it's
                      >knowledge that's not cost-effective to make explicit.

                      Fred wrote:
                      >Could you provide your definition of tacit knowledge and an example of
                      it
                      >that has been or could be made explicit?

                      Sure. Actually, I already did. I consider tacit knowledge that knowledge
                      which is not cost-effective to make explicit. Read on, and I'll
                      explain.

                      I'm kind of amazed at the controversy my little quip has provoked, and
                      frankly, I think most people misunderstood it. :)

                      To begin with, it appears to me (correct me if I'm mistaken) that both
                      Tony and Chris seemed to think I was saying that it's not cost-effective
                      to try to elicit tacit knowledge (by the more traditional definition) at
                      all, and that's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is that
                      tacit knowledge defines itself in a knowledge market -- that knowledge
                      that is still sitting in people's heads instead of in some sort of
                      document or expert system is sitting there PRECISELY and ONLY because no
                      one has yet deemed that it would have more value codified in that way
                      than the sum of its current value less the cost of codifying it is
                      worth.

                      And dollars are not units of value or cost -- they're units of fiscal
                      debt. Costs include time, cognitive effort, opportunity cost compared
                      to doing other things, etc.

                      So now does it start to make sense? And at such point as the perceived
                      value of making the knowledge explicit is deemed to exceed its current
                      value as tacit knowledge plus the cost of codifying it, then it WILL be
                      made explicit.

                      Now, as to the matter of whether or not some or all tacit knowledge
                      truly is codifiable, I have to say that unquestionably it is (with one
                      minor qualification). Remember that a million monkeys in front of
                      typewriters will eventually produce Shakespeare. Again, it's a matter
                      of practicality.

                      How can you even BEGIN to say that it can't be codified? How in the
                      heck did YOU learn it in the first place? We only have five senses,
                      plus our cognitive abilities. But even those cognitive abilities that
                      you applied to a particular knowledge cluster to analyze and synthesize
                      it were ALSO learned. Now, you may not have the SKILLS to articulate
                      that knowledge into language, but again, that can be learned. So again,
                      to me, the idea of saying that any knowledge CAN'T be made explicit
                      seems patently absurd -- however, much of it would be FAR too costly (in
                      terms of time, effort, etc., not just dollars) compared to the value
                      derived. If it takes a year to codify something that you have no idea
                      whether or not it will ever be relevant, then it's not cost-effective!

                      I will make some concession in this for matters of knowledge of a highly
                      introspective, perhaps spiritual, if you will, nature, which I believe
                      can not be made explicit because they do arise exclusively from that
                      introspective experience.

                      That said, I don't think the kind of knowledge we're talking about in a
                      typical business setting falls into that category, and whatever small
                      trace of it does needs to be dealt with in a whole separate way.

                      I hope that helps clarify.

                      Scott Allen
                      Thinking For A Living
                      www.thinkingforaliving.com
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