I was asked again recently to define knowledge management. It’s a simple request — one anyone might make when they are trying to understand what I do — but there is not yet a simple answer. KM professionals and scholars are still trying to define it. If you read my blog, then you know that I’ve been grappling with definitions for some time now (see here, here and here), and so have most of the best minds in the business. For the benefit of my mother, who would sincerely like to know what I do, this is how I describe it:
Knowledge management is a discipline that uses a variety of methodologies to connect people to people and people to information to improve decision making.
In nature, the systems and organisms that survive are simple and elegant. I believe that is true with definitions as well. If we can’t write it on the back of a business card, then we don’t yet understand what we are working with well enough. Theoreticians may split hairs over the terms I use, and KM managers may disagree based upon the specific tool set they are asserting to be KM in their own organizations, and learning or information management professionals may consider KM a subset of their own disciplines, but I think this definition is one that can contain all the others. I keep returning to relating KM to the story of the blind men and the elephant. I believe this definition describes the KM elephant. Have I missed anything?