This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

A study of language concepts in KM

Anna Dening of the University of York has released her initial report on A Study of Concepts of Knowledge Management as expressed in the French and English Languages.

Abstract: Knowledge management has come to the forefront of the business world surrounded by an air of publicity and a degree of scepticism. However in recent years, this label has been removed, and managers and employees are now discovering the real value of knowledge and knowledge management to their organisations.

Globalisation and the spread of multinational organisations are demanding the use of cross cultural management and working practices across several language groups. This leads to the question of whether knowledge management should be practiced in the same way across nations.

This project aims to investigate, by the use of a conversational study and questionnaire, whether differences exist in the opinions of knowledge management across two specific language groups: French and English. The hypothesis that language affects thought is discussed with a view to linking the language spoken to differences in opinions held by an individual.

The first outcome of the study was that the hypothesis 'language affects thought' was substantiated. Secondly, the hypothesis that differences exist in the opinions of French and English speakers in the field of knowledge management was unable to be confirmed as correct.

A copy of the full report can be found here.

The real center of Dening's research is whether language affects how we talk about knowledge and management. This is a familiar concept throughout study of peoples -- that if there is no word for "freedom," the concept also does not exist. For a more aggressive approach, I would be curious how this looks in cultures (languages) where the concepts of management and knowledge are quite different. While English and French are certainly not the same, there is a common intellectual background in the European languages that may have led to the inconclusiveness of the hypothesis that KM is approached differently in French and English.

I fully admit to having not read the 60+ pages of primary text (97 pages total). Dening is certainly thorough. In her literature review section, she describes the many different views on "what is knowledge" and touches on the data, information, knowledge question with a table that describes the views of seven thinkers in the last ten years (page 10, Table 1):

Author Data Information Knowledge
Davenport & Prusak, 1998 A set of discrete, objective facts about events Data that makes a difference, a message A fluid mix of framed experiences, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework.
Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1994 Â A flow of messages Commitments and beliefs created from these messages
Allee, 1997 Â To give form to our experience, the form of language, which can be communicated Experience that can be communicated and shared
Davidson, 1998 Â Data + context Information + experience
Bouthillier & Shearer, 2002 Â Data made meaningful by being put into a context Data made meaningful through a set of beliefs about the causal relationships between actions & their probable consequences
Barth, 2002 Â Data when organised Information that is placed in actionable context
Wilson, 2002 Simple facts outside the mind that can be manipulated in any way Data embedded in a context of relevance to the recipient, and can be manipulated in any way What we know
Kidwell, Linde and Johnson, 2000 Raw facts and numbers Data put into context Information combined with experience and judgement

Page 23, fifth sentence

Davenport at BPM Conference