Knowledge Management LO29138

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: 09/06/02

Replying to LO29118 --


Thank you for the clarifcation you sent and your additional comments. I
have revisited the Standards Australia International (SAI) website and
still have some concerns. I see, for example, that they have a consulting
services division called Business Excellence Australia (BEA) which offers
KM-related services to the marketplace. In what sense, then, should we
regard 'Standards Australia' as an independent developer of standards in a
market space in which it also competes commercially with other
organizations for consulting engagements? Standards-making organizations
that have a vested commercial interest in the outcomes of their work (not
to mention a seemingly unfair competetive market advantage) would appear
to have an inherent conflict of interest on their hands. Does ANSI or ISO
offer consulting services on a commercial basis to industry? I don't
think so. What are your thoughts on this?

I also took a look at the KM standard you referred us to and have several
comments to offer in response, only one of which I will mention now. The
Australian standard for KM seems to suffer from what so much of KM suffers
from these days, in general: an unsatisfactory definition of knowledge
that is difficult to distinguish from information. What we're left with,
then, is no real distinction between information management (IM) and
knowledge management (KM). To wit, the SAI standard defines information
as "data in context that can be used for decision making." Knowledge is
defined as "the body of understanding and skills that is mentally
constructed by people." Now if we parse this latter definition, we find
that knowledge, according to SAI, is understanding. But if that is true,
then all data and information is also knowledge, simply because we can
understand it -- especially in their "mentally constructed" forms. These
distinctions, then, are circular.

Next is the reference to skills. A skill is a capacity to act in a
particular way. Clearly the capacity to act may rely on what we commonly
think of as knowledge, but it is not the same as knowledge. A capacity to
act also requires things like the power or authority to do sot, the
respources needed, and the desire to act. So I do not think we can equate
the two so easily. This, incidentally, is the counter-argument to the
common OL defintion of knowledge as "the capacity to take effective

Next is the question of truth or falsity. If I have an "understanding"
of something that I have "mentally constructed" about what accounts for,
say, good performance in business and it later turns out that my
understanding was false, in what sense should we all regard my prior
understand as having constituted knowledge? And in what sense should we
regard the "false skills" that I developed under such false understandings
as knowledge as well? Aren't we concerned with the degree of truth in
knowledge? Or is all knowledge, true or false, knowledge?

Standards for KM that fail to provide us with persuasive distinctions
between information and knowledge are not KM standards at all, and we
should all stop pretending they are. The key difference between
infromation and knowledge is the extent to which claims contained in both
have either survived or failed to survive our testing and evaluation of
their truthfulness and validity. Information, then, is not a subset of
knowledge; it is the reverse that is true. Knowledge is a particular kind
of information -- it is information that has been validated by having
survived our testing and evaluation, the record of which travels with it.
KM standards, then, that fail to focus on this aspect of knowledge are
arguably incomplete. What they leave us with is no real distinction
between information and knowledge, and to they extent that they send us
off to invest and build so-called KM systems, they do us a disservice and
put our investments at risk. Indeed, the impact they have on us borders
on irresponsible.

Thanks for your input.



Alan Cotterell wrote:

>Standards Australia International is an Australian Government statutory
>authority concerned with development of industry standards, It is similar
>to the American National Standards Institute or the British Standards
>Institute and those in many other countries.

[...snip by your host...]

>Suggest you visit


"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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