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Managing knowledge / managing information: what's the difference?

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What are the differences between Knowledge Management (KM) and Information Management (IM)?

What I’m really asking is how you distinguish information from knowledge for working purposes. And whether that disctinction is important, and how.

To me knowledge is about experience and context. So for example within a project, whilst many sets of information are relatively easy to capture, store and share, a lot of the related knowledge falls between the cracks of (e.g.) a standard PID, a risk log and a project closure report. 

What's the story behind the bare facts and figures? How do I get to hear it, share it, learn from it... ? Why does x keep happening? I know I'm supposed to do y, but what's the best way to do it?

Whilst many initiatives and systems aim to connect people with information, isn’t there as much or often more value in connecting people with people? Once in touch with each other, people (or 'knowledge workers' as I like to think of us) can share personal, first-hand knowledge - including knowledge about the information that they will inevitably share too. 

It's what we do naturally, being social creatures. We instinctively know this is the most effective and valuable way to share and learn. Yet the systems we create often don't do so well at emulating or enabling this personal contact. At best they'll link me with a piece of information, but too often it lacks context, rounded  explanation, the anecdotal example or know-how associated with it.

Limitations of this working culture of 'controlled environments' was highlighted excellently for me recently in this blog post from John Wenger in his ‘Quantum Shifting’ blog.

Liam Fahey and Laurence Prusak's 1998 (California Management Review) article ‘The Eleven Deadliest Sins of Knowledge Management' numbers amongst these errors (#1) ‘Not developing a working definition of knowledge’ and (#2) ‘Emphasizing knowledge stock to the detriment of knowledge flow’. ‘IM’ is important, essential – I should say that; it’s my job! – but these two errors are examples of just the areas where I’ve seen a focus on ‘IM’ getting in the way of what’s ultimately a ‘KM’ goal – particularly stockpiling information in the hope that knowledge will flow as a result (anyone else lost their way recently in a labyrinth of shared folder drives?).



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  1. Martin Fisher
    Martin Fisher 10 April 2013, 01:07 PM

    Thanks for a very comprehensve reply, Adrian.What I'm particularly interested in are information and knowledge issues and differences on a practical level, in terms of organisatioan-wide approaches and what this means day-to-day.For instance, I might be trying to balance1. a known deficit in the quantity and/or quality of my organisation's information that is currently shared or easy to find,with2. work needed to encourage a culture of sharing generally.I could be tempted to worry less about the current 'info circulation' because if I really engage people more in sharing what is important and useful to them, I hope that my first challenge will gradually be resolved 'bottom-up'. But something might be telling me that people are disinclined to share more than they do now because they don't have sufficient confidence in what they see is currently 'available'. Where should I focus my efforts? 

  2. Adrian Hepworth
    Adrian Hepworth 31 March 2013, 08:00 AM

    Dear Martin,An interesting topic and post, my perspective on knowledge and information management is that knowledge is what we learn and then transfer to others, information management is the data collected during processes. I was recently researching maturity and the P3M3 model and what level most organizations want to achieve out of 1-5, and moreover organizations that had reached maturity, however literature also suggests that there is no maximum level an organization can achieve due to changing landscapes, and thus further improvements can be made (Andersen & Jessen, 2002; OGC, 2012). As knowledge is transferred and learned we identify gaps in processes that can be improved upon for better management of information. Collaboration is a great way of knowledge transfer; however this can be misleading if the person offering the knowledge is not working to a best practice that the organization policy adheres to, and/or in addition the best practices of the organization have gaps that may be improved upon, and thus a change is raised, hence the reoccurring of issues during process. We now have information technology to help identify best practices and knowledge across industry by reviewing peer reviewed journals.A great way of transferring knowledge in mass is through workshops and inviting all stakeholders including the clients these improve relationships and processes, furthermore open communication and information sharing improves performances,Meredith, & Mantel (2009) argue that all team members need to learn & grow from initiatives, and team selection should have a mix of senior & junior candidates, this is future business value for the organization, Sharpe, (2001) also supports this theory. Wong, (2007) claims that working conditions & environmental factors greatly increase the project success and how the team members operate and collaborate; teams are influenced by the intangible spaces, team dynamics and interaction space. Personal space is for self-motivating & developing personal behavior, whereas organization space is the representation of management systems & processes, personal & team space are also influenced by emotions, whereas organizational space is logical.The fundament and distinct characteristics between knowledge and information management are linked in the way that they both need each other to enhance organization and personal performances.   ReferencesAndersen, E. S. & Jessen, S. A. (2002)Project maturity in organisations International Journal of Project Management 21 (2003), pp.457461, ScienceDirect, EBSCO Host, [Online]. DOI:10.1016/S0263-7863(02)00088-1 (Accessed: 31 March 2013).Meredith, J.R. & Mantel, Jr., S.J. (2009) Project management: a managerial approach. 7th ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Office of Government Commerce (OGC), (2012) Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model [Online] Available from: (Accessed: 31 March 2013).Sharpe, G. (2001) Characteristics of a high performing organization [Online]. Available from: 55/1 (Accessed: 31 March   2013). Wong, B.T.Z. (2007) Human factors in project management: concepts, tools, and techniques for inspiring teamwork and motivation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.