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.

KM mistakes and tyranny of the tangible

Another article on KM mistakes / myths, this time from Michael Gilbert at Nonprofit Online News: Seven Knowledge Management Mistakes.  As always, see the full piece for details on each of these mistakes.

  1. Let's Go Shopping!
  2. Taxonomy Too!
  3. Mixed Messages
  4. "Best" Practices
  5. Documental Illness
  6. Another Thing to Read
  7. The Work of Art

What all of these mistakes have in common, as their underlying cause, is something that I call the Tyranny of the Tangible. I have written about this in more detail elsewhere: Both technology and content are more tangible than communication and learning. This tangibility makes it both easier and more compelling for us to base our knowledge management design on their dynamics, aesthetics, objectives, and paradigms.

This is the first time I've run across Gilbert, and I really like this idea of the Tyranny of the Tangible*.  Essentially, since the evidence of knowledge (books, papers, presentations, recordings, software) is much easier to see and handle, we tend to focus on that.  It's like the classic parable of the drunk looking for his keys under the street lamp "because the light is brighter" rather than down the street where he dropped them. 

Instead, we should really look at how knowledge is transmitted and shared and developed: the dimension that cannot be made tangible.  And what are we doing with it in the first place?  How does it help meet personal and organizational goals?  How do we communicate?  Once you have a good understanding of the critical processes, then think about the tangible stuff that needs to be managed to support the processes.

* I couldn't find an explicit reference by Gilbert on Tyranny of the Tangible, but Gilbert's article on Nonprofit KM touches on it, and this piece at FutureVisions (author unclear) talks about it in terms of performance evaluations.

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Schedule creates the wrong focus