43 knowledge management definitions – and counting…


For many years I’ve been saying that I didn’t like the term “knowledge management” as (a) it was fundamentally an oxymoron, (b) there was no consensus within the industry as to what the term meant, and (c) in many companies the term carries negative connotations due to a perceived lack of value from earlier so-called knowledge management efforts and/or belief that knowledge management was a fad that we have moved on past or has been absorbed into other disciplines. On top of this add claims by many writers that the term has been hijacked by technology vendors, management consultants, or academics.

Now, with my imminent return to professionally holding a “knowledge management” title, I felt compelled to confront this definitional issue — not to somehow come away with the (at least in my own mind) enduring definition, but rather to acquire a deeper understanding of the range of opinion and make some further sense out of the mess. If I am going to carry a business card that says “knowledge management,” then I feel I have a responsibility to at least grapple with this. So grapple I shall…in this and follow-on posts.

This grappling was further motivated by spending some time with Joseph Firestone’s writing these past few weeks; including at the actKM discussion list, Key Issues in Knowledge Management (which includes a critique of several knowledge management definitions), the web site All Life is Problem Solving, and his recently published paper On Doing Knowledge Management where he wrote:

What we should not do is to force researchers and practitioners to agree on a definition of KM through premature efforts at standardization. While this might bring about the consensus we need in order to do evaluations of ‘KM’s’ track record, any consensus forged in the political atmosphere of standards organizations may well be a consensus constructed around a compromise that has no conceptual unity, and which results in a version of ‘KM’ that is bound to fail.

Another thing we should not do is to evaluate KM projects without benefit of an effort at explicit definition or specification of what we mean by KM. It’s surprising how frequently one sees this happening in practitioner circles, and how damaging it can be.

[Side note: In 2005 Jack Vinson, also in the KM blogosphere, reviewed an earlier paper by Firestone and McElroy.]

My motivation and approach is then further informed by the following from Arian Ward:

I would like to challenge the concept of needing to define something. I find definitions to be extremely limiting. They become permanent representations of the thing being defined and leave no room for interpretation, adaptation, or evolution over time. Instead I like to think about the distinctions of something. This is an evolving description — a running list of the manifestations and characteristics of the thing. Distinctions allow something to take on different guises in different contexts. They allow you to accumulate a list of those manifestions and characteristics over time. They also allow you to include what something is not in addition to what it is, to set boundaries around the thing being described. They provide people with a much richer sense of meaning and understanding. In short, something moves from being a dead set of words to being alive in the mind of the receiver. Including different people’s definitions of intellectual capital or knowledge in a book or article is a method of beginning to list their distinctions.

Sample Definitions

So, to begin, I decided to pull together a cross-section of existing knowledge management definitions. In assembling the following definitions, which are listed alphabetical by author, I cast my net widely as I was not only interested in what the credible peer-reviewed published works might say; but also what the “The Wisdom[?] of Crowds” said.

Here we go…and on initial publishing I stop at 43 different definitions, not because that is all I could find, but rather I’ve run out of energy for this first pass. Scroll to the bottom for some closing humor.

  1. “Distinct but interdependent processes of knowledge creation, knowledge storage and retrieval, knowledge transfer and knowledge application. ” (Alavi and Leidner, 2001, as reported by Jennex in reference below)
  2. “The explicit and systematic management of intellectual capital and organizational knowledge as well as the associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, retrieving, leveraging, and using intellectual capital for the purposes of improving organizations and the people in them.” (ASTD Learning System Module-8: Knowledge Management Concepts, Philosophy, and Theory (PDF))
  3. The process that attempts to facilitate the full generation and flow of knowledge within an organization.” (Madelyn Blair, Pelerei Inc., Definitions, web page viewed 16 March 2008)
  4. “Focuses on defining the knowledge employees or systems use to perform activities and saving it in some format so that others can access it.” (BPTrends, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  5. “A system or framework for managing the organizational processes that create, store and distribute knowledge, as defined by its collective data, information and body of experience.” (Bridgefield Group, ERP/Supply chain Glossary, viewed 15 March 2008)
  6. “…knowledge management is the process by which we manage human centred assets.” “…the function of knowledge management is to guard and grow knowledge owned by individuals, and where possible, transfer the asset into a form where it can be more readily shared by other employees in the company.” (Annie Brooking, Corporate Memory: Strategies For Knowledge Management, 1999, p.154)
  7. “A business process that formalizes management and leverage of a firm’s intellectual assets. KM is an enterprise discipline that promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people.” (Business Resources Online, The e-Business Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  8. “Unfortunately, there’s no universal definition of knowledge management (KM), just as there’s no agreement as to what constitutes knowledge in the first place. For this reason, it’s best to think of KM in the broadest context. Succinctly put, KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Most often, generating value from such assets involves codifying what employees, partners and customers know, and sharing that information among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices.” (CIO Magazine Tutorial, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  9. “Knowledge management is the name of a concept in which an enterprise consciously and comprehensively gathers, organises, shares, and analyzes its knowledge in terms of resources, documents, and people skills.” (Creotec, Electronic business terms and definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008.) [19 March update: a duplicate of definition 37]
  10. “Managing tacit knowledge (held in an individual’s brain in the form of know-how and experience) and explicit knowledge (recorded independently of humans).” (The Cura Consortium: Consultants in Information Management, Glossary of Information Management Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  11. “The distribution, access and retrieval of unstructured information about “human experiences” between interdependent individuals or among members of a workgroup. Knowledge management involves identifying a group of people who have a need to share knowledge, developing technological support that enables knowledge sharing, and creating a process for transferring and disseminating knowledge.” (eLiteral, Decision Support Systems Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  12. “KM refers to activities aimed at enhancing knowledge processing. These activities are interventions designed to affect how knowledge processing is done.” (Joseph Firestone, On Doing Knowledge Management, Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 2008, p.17)
  13. “The leveraging of collective wisdom to increase responsiveness and innovation.” (Carl Frappaolo, Knowledge Management, 2006, p.8)
  14. “…a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, managing and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These information assets may include databases, documents, policies and procedures, as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience resident in individual workers.” (Gartner Group Inc, October 1996 – cited in numerous books and articles)
  15. “The tools, techniques, and strategies to retain, analyze, organize, improve, and share business expertise.” (Todd R. Groff and Thomas P. Jones, Introduction to Knowledge Management: KM in Business , 2003, p.2)
  16. “The collection of processes that govern the creation, dissemination, and leveraging of knowledge to fulfil organisational objectives.” (David Gurteen, Knowledge Management, web page viewed 16 March 2008. Introduced as “A common definition is…”
  17. “Knowledge Management is a business philosophy. It is an emerging set of principles, processes, organisational structures, and technology applications that help people share and leverage their knowledge to meet their business objectives.” David Gurteen, Knowledge Management, web page viewed 16 March 2008. Introduced as “Another definition…”
  18. “An entity’s systematic and deliberate efforts to expand, cultivate, and apply available knowledge in ways that add value to the entity in the sense of positive results in accomplishing its objectives or fulfilling its purpose.” (Holsapple and Joshi, 2004, as reported by Jennex in reference below)
  19. Knowledge management is…about retrieving, acquiring, and adapting corporate knowledge.” (Tom Hresko, What Knowledge Management Isn’t, destinationCRM.com, 2003)
  20. “The mistaken idea that what is in peoples heads (knowledge) is fundamentally the same stuff as can be documented in words, pictures charts etc (information). This underestimates the unique and essential value-adding role of people, who make things happen by applying skills, experience, reason, intuition, passion, decision to information. You can’t bottle this stuff.” (Information Alchemy, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  21. “The practice of selectively applying knowledge from previous experiences of decision making to current and future decision-making activities with the express purpose of improving the organization’s effectiveness.” (Jennex, Knowledge Management in Modern Organizations, 2005, p.4)
  22. “The process of improving the job performance of knowledge workers by eliminating relevant ignorance and inability as quickly and inexpensively as possible AND providing the proper environment, motivation and role models. This simple definition encompasses a very broad range of worthy activities, including:
    • identifying internal or external best practices and adopting them as standards
    • making sure that useful innovations move quickly throughout the organization
    • useful training efforts
    • internal communication and journalism
    • managing, coaching and mentoring

    “Knowledge Management is simply management — of people and of processes — in any organization that is predominantly made up of knowledge workers. Because knowledge resides in people, knowledge management is people management — and must address the hearts as well as the brains of the workforce.” (KM-Experts, Definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008)

  23. “The art of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value for an organization’s clients and its people.” (Ellen Knapp, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, as reported by Firestone in his Key Issues paper, p.18. 18 March update: Also used by Stan Garfield at HP in this presentation.)
  24. “A set of processes used to effectively use a knowledge system to locate the knowledge required by one or more people to perform their assigned tasks.” (Knowledge Based Solutions, Definition of Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  25. “A business activity with two primary aspects:
    • treating the knowledge component of business activities as an explicit concern of business reflected in strategy, policy, and practice at all levels of the organization
    • making a direct connection between an organization’s intellectual assets — both explicit [recorded] and tacit [personal know-how] — and positive business results.” (Knowledge Praxis, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  26. “The process of systematically and actively managing and leveraging the stores of knowledge in an organisation” (Laudon, K.C. & Laudon, J.P. 1998, Managing Information Systems: New approaches to organisation and technology, Fifth Edition, p. 553. From this University of Southern Queensland document – not validated with original source.)
  27. “Consciously managing knowledge as a resource and using it in a targeted manner within the company.” (Mahle, Commercial/general glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  28. “Knowledge Management refers to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival and competence against discontinuous environmental change. Essentially it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” (Yogesh Malhotra, Interview by Alistair Craven, 2005, web page viewed 16 March 2008)
  29. “The way a company stores, organizes and accesses internal and external information. Narrower terms are: ‘Organizational Memory’ and ‘Knowledge Transfer’.” (Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century, MIT Sloan, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  30. “A process for optimizing the effective application of intellectual capital to achieve objectives. In an organizational setting, this would mean a systematic approach to getting an organization to make the best possible use of knowledge in implementing its mission, broadly viewed as either sustainable competitive advantage or long-term high performance. From the individual viewpoint, this can be extrapolated to mean optimizing the effective application of the individual’s knowledge (their potential and actual capacity to take effective action in varied and uncertain situations) to achieve the individual’s professional and personal goals.” (Mountain Quest Institute, Definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  31. “A multi-disciplined approach to achieving organisational objectives by making best use of knowledge. It involves the design, review and implementation of both social and technological processes to improve the application of knowledge, in the collective interest of stakeholders.” (New South Wales Government, Department of Commerce, Glossary of Recordkeeping Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  32. “Conscious strategy of putting both tacit and explicit knowledge into action by creating context, infrastructure, and learning cycles that enable people to find and use the collective knowledge of the enterprise.” (Carla O’Dell, Susan Elliott, and Cindy Hubert, Knowledge Management: A Guide for Your Journey to Best-Practice Processes, APQC, 2000, p.1)
  33. “Conscious strategy of getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time and helping people share and put information into action in ways that strive to improve organizational performance.” (Carla O’Dell and C. Jackson Grayson, If Only We Knew What We Know, 1998, p.6)
  34. “Eliciting and sharing the experience and intelligence of everyone working in a particular process.” (PHRED Solutions, Glossary of Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  35. “A method for gathering information and making it available to others.” (Qualis Health, Collaboratives Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  36. “The systematic processes by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is create, captured, shared, and leveraged.” (Melisse Clemmons Rumizen, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management, 2002, p.9)
  37. “Knowledge management is the name of a concept in which an enterprise consciously and comprehensively gathers, organizes, shares, and analyzes its knowledge in terms of resources, documents, and people skills.” (SearchDomino.com, web page viewed 13 March 2008. This is the target page for ‘knowledge management’ from whatis.com.)
  38. “Knowledge Management is the explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge – and its associated processes of creation, organization, diffusion, use and exploitation – in pursuit of business objectives.” (David Skyrme Associates, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  39. “Knowledge Management [is] a term that can have multiple meanings. In business information technology knowledge management refers to an entire integrated system for accumulation, integration, manipulation, and access of data across multiple organizations, including such data as credit data, consumer profiles, market data, product development data, etc.” (TranslationDirectory.com, viewed 15 March 2008)
  40. “The process of systematically and actively managing and leveraging the stores of knowledge in an organisation is called knowledge management. It is the process of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value.” (UniSA Planning and Assurance Services, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  41. “Providing access to knowledge, creating an environment that encourages the sharing of knowledge, and building a desire to learn.” (Karl Weik, as paraphrased by Madelyn Blair in her Personal Knowledge Management: An approach to understanding what you know and need to know through conversation and story)
  42. “A range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge.” (Wikipedia, viewed 15 March 2008. Earlier, this definition continued with “…for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organisations.”)
  43. “The collection, organization, analysis, and sharing of information held by workers and groups within an organization.” (WorldWideLearn, Common Terms Used in Online Learning, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  44. [Addendum begins here. Listed in order viewed, contrast to alphabetical by source] “A business process that creates organizational capacity. KM can lead to measurable outcomes and results related to organizational goals, learning, and value creation for customers and employee communities.” (Kaye Vivian, KM Definitions, 2005, blog viewed 18 March 2008. In the comments here, Kaye mentions “I have refined my understanding since this post”)
  45. “A process that uses a variety of social tools and technologies to capture information that an individual has absorbed and modified, using their own personal experiences and personal understandings as a filter, into a modified iteration of information that can be reviewed and used by others.”(Kaye Vivian, in a suggested revision to Wikipedia definition, KM and Learning: A Matter of Definition, 2006, blog viewed 18 March 2008)
  46. “The dynamic process of turning an unreflective practice into a reflective one by elucidating the rules guiding the activities of the practice, by helping give a particular shape to collective understandings, and by facilitating the emergence of heuristic knowledge.” (H. Tsoukas and E. Vladimirou, as reported by Kaye Vivian in Definitions of KM, 2006, blog viewed 18 March 2008. RS note: I have the good intention of finding my way back to the original source for this and the next seven.)
  47. “Processes, technology and behaviors that deliver the right content to the right people at the right time and in the right context so that they can make the best decisions quickly to solve problems, exploit business opportunities, accelerate competency and innovation.” (unattributed, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  48. “The art of creating value from an organisation’s Intangible Assets.” (Karl-Eric Sveiby, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  49. “An effort to retain, analyze and organize employee expertise to make it available to the organization.” (Stuart, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  50. “Achieving organizational goals through strategy-driven motivation and facilitation of (knowledge-) workers to develop, enhance their capability to interpret data and information, experience, skills, culture, character, personality, feelings etc.) through the process of giving meaning to these data and information.” (Roelof P. ult Beijerse, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  51. “The creation, evolution, exchange and application of new ideas into marketable goods and services for the success of an enterprise, for the vitality of a nation’s economy, for the advancement of a society.” (Debra Amidon, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  52. “A collaborative and integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets.” (Grey, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  53. “Is about connecting people to people and people to information to create competitive advantage.” (Hoyt Consulting, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  54. “Knowledge management is a discipline that uses a variety of methodologies to connect people to people and people to information to improve decision making.” (Kaye Vivian, offered in the comments here as approximately the one she uses when asked socially what KM is. This is essentially the same as what I use in similar situations, although I’m bothered by leaving out explicit mention of ‘flow’ and ’sharing’ aspects.)
  55. (added 30 March 2008) “Knowledge Management develops systems and processes to acquire and share intellectual assets. It increases the generation of useful, actionable and meaningful information and seeks to increase both individual and team learning. In addition, it can maximize the value of an organization’s intellectual base across diverse functions and disparate locations. Knowledge Management maintains that successful businesses are a collection not of products but of distinctive knowledge bases. This intellectual capital is the key that will give the company a competitive advantage with its targeted customers. Knowledge Management seeks to accumulate intellectual capital that will create unique core competencies and lead to superior results.” (Bain & Company, Management Tools 2007 an Executive’s Guide, Knowledge Management)
  56. (added 1 April 2008) “…a concerted effort to improve how knowledge is created, delivered and used…” (Davenport, Prusak, and Strong in Putting Ideas to Work, MIT Sloan Management Review, 10 March 2008)
  57. (added 3 April 2008) “KM is simply the art enabling trusted, context-rich conversations among the appropriate members of communities about things these communities are passionate about.” (Dave Pollard, How to Save the World, KM 0.0 – Simply Enabling Trusted Context-Rich Conversations Among Communities That Care, 6 December 2007)
  58. (added 12 April 2008) “A branch of management science that deals with ways to optimize the generation, flow and application of knowledge in the enterprise. KM is a way to achieve better productivity and greater agility.” (Miguel Cornejo Castro, in Knowledge wave: Visions of Knowledge Management in Practice 2, v1.3, p.5, March 2008)
  59. (added 10 May 2008) “A discipline concerned with the management of people, processes and infrastructures relating to knowledge intensive processes and artifacts; where knowledge is defined as ’solutions to problems’.” (William P. (Bill) Hall, in 9 May 2008 post to actKM discussion group)
  60. (added 17 May 2008)Knowledge Management is concerned with using to best advantage the knowledge and experiences that have been gained across an organization” via Gerrit Visser in his 17 May 2008 Twitter update)
  61. (added 25 October 2008)Knowledge Management refers to the management of the components and enabling of relationships from which knowledge emerges: used to enhance decision making, spark innovation, and comprehend weak signals in the information environment.  Knowledge management does not focus on managing knowledge itself; rather, it seeks the positive interaction of the component elements that can be managed to lay the foundation for better decision making, innovation, and adaptation.” (John Bordeaux in his 12 October 2008 So What is Knowledge Management Anyway? blog post.)
  62. (added 7 December 2008, prompted by comment from Syed Azeem) Leveraging relevant knowledge assets to improve organization performance, with emphasis on improving efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation. Michael Stankosky in Creating the Discipline of Knowledge Management: The Latest in University Research. p.6.

Next Steps

Where I believe I’ll head next with this is to: (1) create a cloud map for the words in the above definitions, (2) do some formal classification of each definition for the particular concepts included and missing, (3) attempt some grouping by “orientation,” and (4) attempt to summarize in prose the range of definitions and orientations. Other suggestions?

17 March: text clouds now available
18 March: Added the 11 definitions prompted by Kaye's comment.
19 March: preliminary categorization now available]

Additionally, pulling together the above has motivated me to start a reading queue of recently published knowledge management books and articles. With all my immersion in the learning and development discipline the past two+ years, I’d drifted away from the KM literature.

Lastly, the lengthy list of definitions begs to be a wiki page. Someday. Someday. (3 April Update: Stephen Bounds created such a wiki. See Critique of 43 definitions of Knowledge Management).

Closing irony, from the KM Institute’s web site as of 15 March:

KM Book of Knowlege closed for repair

40 Responses to “43 knowledge management definitions – and counting…”

  1. 1 Martin Mackain-Bremner

    in your travels and travails, don’t miss a visit to Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge site and blog (http://www.cognitive-edge.com/).

  2. 2 Ray Sims

    Hi Martin,

    Yes, thanks for the reminder. I read David pretty regularly and he has a place in my blog roll. Of course, he is pretty known for his Whence goeth KM? post.


  3. 3 Matthew Rees

    I don’t like the term Knowledge Management either but I do like the fact that it has two elements, “knowledge” which is more tha[n] information and “management” which is an activity. This immediately dismisses the IT crowd who only deal with information and the academics who offer analysis and observations but no practicable guidance on what to do.

  4. 4 Nancy White

    Great collection. Now, would you like to collaborate on doing the same thing for “online community?” I did this about 8 years ago and it sorely needs updating.

  5. 5 Shaun Bala

    Good job, a big starting point in a much needed exercise. I’m also interested in the distinction between information management and knowledge management. I’m really looking forward to the process.

    You mentioned getting back into KM books. Would you care to share some reading recommendations for KM?


  6. 6 Kaye Vivian

    Nice posting, Ray. Most of us have grappled with the issue of definition, and if you go back two years ago — starting I think in May — and then again about two years before that in the ActKM archives, you will find some very lengthy discussions about defining KM that wore the entire community down and came to no real conclusion other than data is not = information is not = knowledge, and, we still don’t have a definition. :) Here are three out of several lengthy posts I made on my blog on the topic (and they contain a few definitions not on your list from key people in the field). You may want to check these references before you make your tag cloud.

    KM Definitions (from 2005…I have refined my understanding since this post)

    KM and Learning: A Matter of Definition

    Definitions of KM … again

    I still believe that we have to have a short and sweet statement that sums up all that KM is (and leaves room to expand the different aspects of it separately). This is approximately the one I use when someone I meet socially asks what KM is (in a business context).

    Knowledge management is a discipline that uses a variety
    of methodologies to connect people to people and people to
    information to improve decision making.

    I’ll look forward to see where you go with your explorations. :) Best wishes.

  7. 7 awie foong

    Hi Ray,

    Nice effort here.

    I would like to comment on a couple:
    1. I agree that there are multiple meanings to the term KM. Definition is essential to distinguish between what one says and what others might think. There is a context to the application of KM (whether or not it is considered as a concept, process, activity ,aspiration etc.). Most concepts have multiple meanings; the variations can be due to differences in language, culture, field of studies etc. Therefore a clear definition is important to help the audience understand what this label means in the context of the particular study, and nothing more.

    2. In relation to point above, therefore, I think that it is meaningless to work out a universal definition for KM without considering the context where it’ll be applied. It’d be really nice if you can include the context of the studies, for each definition, in the list above. Perhaps then we can see why the distinction between information management and knowledge management isn’t such a big deal!?


  8. 8 Jay Crosss

    Ray, for years I’ve maintained a glossary of learning and development terminology at http://internettime.pbwiki.com/Glossary

    My long-term definition:

    Knowledge Management (KM). Whatever you want it to mean.

  9. 9 Ray Sims

    ALL: Thanks for joining in on this.

    Matthew: I think you are on to something there. If we really get back to what the original two words mean and stick to ‘knowledge’ and not allow this to shift to ‘information management’ it sure takes us to a different place than the industry went (although does open up the “what is knowledge” question. No energy from me just now to catalog that one) Also if I think about the practical use of the word ‘management’ as in ‘people management’ it sure blurs into leadership (and where I get more comfortable regarding ‘knowledge’). Over at actKM there is mention of “knowledge leveraging” versus “knowledge management”…with its own +/-.

    Nancy: no thanks (smile), I have my hands dirty enough now with this one and (if things go according to current plan) I have few days left until I’m again consumed to full-time employment.

    Shaun: I vaguely recall some recent thread on actKM regarding IM versus KM. As far as other reading, I’m definitely putting Joseph Firestone on the ‘must read’. He is generous with sharing papers and excerpts at his web sites. Last night I ordered a copy of Key Issues in the New Knowledge Management (KMCI Press). I would love to hear from others regarding their recommendations…especially for anything already written in a more paper/book form that acknowledges web2.0 possibilities for KM.

    Kaye: thank you thank you. I’ve read some of your posts in the past, but I didn’t think to search your blog in my initial scan. My miss for that.

    Awie: thanks for the thoughts. Starting with #2, hmmm, I’m not sure there is much context to extract from the definitions; for example, what is the ‘context’ of a book definition where the book is broadly targeting all KM? Although, especially for the web sources, some level of author orientation (bias?) could be inferred?

    I’m more comfortable with #1 and I believe that is consistent with Joe Firestone’s writing…explicitly define what you mean by KM whenever you claim something is or isn’t KM. And, allow for the fact that there are going to be different definitions.


  10. 10 Stephen Bounds


    Out of interest, I did my own analysis of your collected definitions, with a summary based on keyword groupings.

    This is naturally a fairly subjective analysis, particularly since I exclude four definitions on the basis of them not being “KM”.

    But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  11. 11 Dan Keldsen

    Ray – you have been one seriously busy guy, eh?

    Really interesting, and boy, this reads a lot like the back and forth with our advisory panel for Enterprise 2.0…

    All around, it’s a bit of a squishy topic – but then if all we do is attempt to define it, and never attempt to get anything done that even remotely smells like KM, then we’re back where most people assume KM was 10 years ago… An over-hyped and under-utilized academic dream. Whew – so much money blown on hideously expensive “KM solutions” then.

    Thankfully, there is more to KM than hype, and that it can continue to be refined over time, should be a sign of life, even if it’s also a tad frustrating to be “Still Defining… After All These Years.” (hmm – that might be the next title of my KM 2.0 presentation…) Sometime real soon my article on “KM – It’s Not Dead Yet!” (bowing to Monty Python) should be out in E-DOC, touching on Enterprise 2.0 and KM, and this recent rebirth of interest. Getting out of KM as the thing you do after you’ve done your “real work” is a major issue, and it seems that Enterprise 2.0 holds some promise there. At least, that’s what our research seems to indicate…

    In some ways it amazes me where companies are in even acknowledging the value of “doing KM,” but then again, KM tends to have a bit of a longer-term and strategic aspect of thinking/management to it, and so many companies are hyper-focused on the short-term. Not terribly surprising that KM is still not well known or understood from that standpoint.

    Great food for discussion, and congratulations on kicking the dust up with this post. Very nice jump-starter… Quite a lot of KM talk going on these days, great to see/hear/participate in – something is definitely in the water. Drink up! ;)

  12. 12 Ray Sims

    Stephen: thanks for moving this forward via more evaluation and getting the content into a wiki. I’ll need to spend some more time on your site to fully digest and to consider if it is worth making a go at a handful of archetypal definitions…using guidance from your grouping by ‘type’ and Matthias Melcher’s concept map. Anyone that wants to get there first, feel free, as it might be a few days before I get to thinking more about the possibility.

    For example of the resulting handful, I agree with you that Joe Firestone stands out as an important distinction, something entirely different than the rest. The others are mostly for what he and McElroy call “Knowledge Processing” contrast to how they define “Knowledge Management.”

    Dan: Thanks. I’m looking forward to seeing your E-Doc and talking more leading up to, and at, the Boston KM event.

  13. 13 Peter

    Hello everyone. I’m a postgraduate student doing an MSc in Information and Library Studies? I’m looking for a definition of the term “Knowledge Organisation”, and any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  14. 14 M A J Jeyaseelan

    I stumbled upon this interesting blog, while scouting for references for my upcoming article on Knowledge and Knowledge bases. I was provoked in to writing this article, since I found even dumb document management systems claimed themselves to be knowledge management systems. The article focuses on the prerequisites of a knowledge base architecture as opposed to a simple database. I would certainly like to share it with you once I finish it. Without a doubt, knowledge like most of our concepts means many things to many people. Actually our knowledge has also the victim of words that are used to describe it

  15. 15 Moria Levy

    Our definition of knowledge Management, widely used in Israel:
    Knowledge retention, knowledge sharing, knowledge organization and knowledge retention activities, performed methodologically in order to achieve organizational business targets.
    Exlanation: The first part of the definition, speaks about the types of activities in scope. In order to turn these processes into “managed ones” use of ordered methodologies should take part and the efforts should serve an organizational defined target.
    We find this definition both simple for our audience to understand, yet covering the full scope.

  1. 1 Text clouds for 43 knowledge management defintions at Sims Learning Connections
  2. 2 McGee’s Musings : Ray Sims is collecting definitions of knowledge management
  3. 3 Analysis of 53 knowledge management definitions at Sims Learning Connections
  4. 4 » Blog Archive » links for 2008-03-20
  5. 5 links for 2008-03-20 | Thought Stream: Nitin Badjatia's Weblog
  6. 6 links for 2008-03-21 « D e j a m e S e r
  7. 7 x28’s new Blog » Blog Archive » The “43 KM definitions” as Topicmap Demo
  8. 8 The FASTForward Blog » 54 knowledge management definitions - and counting…: Enterprise 2.0 Blog: News, Coverage, and Commentary
  9. 9 Another KM blog!!! « Knowledge Management (whatever it is)
  10. 10 43 knowledge management definitions - … « law.librarians
  11. 11 Defining KM « Enlightened tradition
  12. 12 What’s emerging? at Sims Learning Connections
  13. 13 Wie definiert man Knowledge Management (Wissensmanagement)? | Tim Schlotfeldt und Bildungsberatung
  14. 14 Library clips :: Knowledge Management…NOT! :: July :: 2008
  15. 15 KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management: Part Six
  16. 16 Blog traffic stats - Tony’s meme [redux] at Sims Learning Connections
  17. 17 Strategic Thinking and Strategic Resources | Learning In a Flat World
  18. 18 KM 101: Introduction to Legal Knowledge Management « LawyerKM
  19. 19 KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management: Part 21, Knowledge Management: a Single Meme, Multiple Meanings, and a Very Heterogeneous Movement
  20. 20 National Governmental Knowledge Management: KM, Adaptation, and Complexity: Part Seven, Comments on A “Simple” Definition
  21. 21 Doug Cornelius .com · Wrap-Up of Knowledge Management 2.0 Symposium
  22. 22 Doug Cornelius .com · Defining Knowledge Management
  23. 23 The Problem Solving Pattern Matters: Part Fourteen, The Capabilities of Rabbit Organizations
  24. 24 The KFTF Blog » Blog Archive
  25. 25 E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » Defining Knowledge Management and Enterprise 2.0 – Sharing Your Story

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