Working Knowledge: (Ubiquity, August 8, 2000)
T.D. Wilson's comments and the article "Working Knowledge" are provocative. I agree that knowledge is different than information or data and resides in the human mind; that knowledge is messy, not easily or even possibly defined, controlled or "managed." But knowledge management in my experience is most useful when it is focused on assisted learning, and emerges naturally out of an already collaborative environment. Knowledge management in this vein can provide organization strategies that accelerate learning. In my experience, knowledge management has helped novices see patterns in information, data or troubleshooting that experts have helped to highlight. This was true of the expert system (a kind of knowledge base) I helped to develop two years ago. Our goal was to provide newer analysts with troubleshooting decision models that were based upon expert knowledge. The knowledge base served as a kind of extended mentoring system since experts could reach more people through the system than by talking with each individual and many of the questions were the same anyway. Novices who used the system not only learned how to resolve problems but also began to perceive the troubleshooting philosophies because they could see the whole decision tree and what questions came first and which came later. This provided them with a basis for higher order questions related to strategy and methodology rather than just, "What's the quick fix for this?" Of course, capable novices may have asked higher order questions anyway, but the kbase helped facilitate them more quickly, and perhaps in more depth. The decision tree provided support for these questions and served as a kind of mind map over which learning could occur, in my opinion, more rapidly. For me knowledge management is most interesting when it is about learning assistance strategies.
-- Lyda Woods