In an email conversation with Joe Potts, inspired by a comment on my Freakonomics review, the idea that information asymmetry and knowledge management might be on opposite sides of the fence came up.
Information asymmetry (wikipedia entry) is the idea that in a transaction, the two sides are not only selling goods and services, but the value placed on them has to do with what each side knows about the transaction. If I buy an old Life Magazine because my mother is on the cover, should I tell the owner about this before or after? When I buy the Bleeding Gums Murphy album after he dies, should I expect to pay more because the musician is dead?
And one direction around knowledge management is that it's an effort to share and make the right information ("knowledge") available to the right people at the right time, so they can make decisions or take action in their businesses.
Taken to extremes, one could claim that KM seeks to level the playing field and remove those asymmetries. But I really don't believe this. KM is about helping an organization or a group learn and know as much as possible in a given time frame. It's about giving people the capability to find and do what they need to do. Within an organization, we don't want there to be any asymmetry.
When it comes to economic transactions, the parties involved always have differences of motivation, knowledge, desires, etc. Where the ideas of KM are important are in learning about the parties in a transaction. It is advantageous, generally, to understand the motivations and desires of the people with whom you are dealing. You can never know it all, but if you know their general situation, you can speak to their needs more clearly, which should also help either side get to a deal.
Feel free to take apart this discussion. I'm not an economist.