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Information Management, Knowledge Management

#KnowledgeAge 4: The IM and KM Difference

What is the difference between Information Management (IM) and Knowledge Management (KM)?

Information management focuses on leveraging information. It is about getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time, and in the right format to support the decision making process. However, in order to make informed decisions, organizations must also execute knowledge management. Knowledge management focuses on leveraging knowledge. It is about getting the right people together, at the right time to generate the knowledge needed to support informed, or knowledge-enabled, decision making.

Examples of information include documents, publications, and word of mouth to name a few.

Examples of knowledge include experience, education, and skills to name a few.

I can create a great meal using a recipe, which is information in the form of cooking procedures. Once I’ve done this a few times, I internalize those procedures and I may even change the procedures a bit to fit my own style of cooking. It is at this point that I have transformed the information into knowledge and I no longer need the procedures to cook the meal.

Another example of this transformation can be explained through the art of pugilism. I can explain to one of my fighters (yes I coach) what will happen if they are punched in their solar plexus. They may not be able to breath for a few seconds, will feel disoriented, and may even faint. I can then instruct them on how to defend themselves against such an attack. However, they may not be able to successfully defend themselves on that information alone. It is not until they spar with someone and get hit in their solar plexus that they are then able to transform that information into knowledge, as a result of the experience of having been hit in the solar plexus, and properly defend themselves.

Some, not all, organizations tend to leverage egos rather than knowledge and egos are often barriers to good knowledge work. However, sometimes leveraging egos can be useful since some people can be considered forces of nature. This can be considered a tactical move like the use of a chess piece that’s more important because of its status on the board at a specific point in time rather than its capability. But then, even this method of leveraging people requires an understanding of people and their worth, which is achieved through good knowledge management practices.

Many organizations employ people whom the leadership know very little about. People spend their lives learning all kinds of things and picking up useful skills here and there. Most of these skills and knowledge the people have go untapped. Organizations fail to leverage the knowledge embedded in their organizations because they fail to learn about their employees. This untapped resource could mean the difference between achieving sustainable success or becoming a distant memory.

When organizational leaders understand their employees – that is, their worth – they can leverage the right people for the right tasks; they can invest in the right skills needed to improve operations; and they can scale, using the right mix of information and knowledge, to meet any operational demand or competitor.

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About Daryl Horton

I'm an information and knowledge manager specializing in creating and sustaining learning organizations in a chaotic and often complex environment. I'm also an artist at heart and I do a lot of creative writing.

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