In mid-2004, I facilitated a Knowledge Management workshop for Malaysian educators at the SEAMEO INNOTECH. During coffee break in the hallway, I met a Bangladeshi gentleman attending another workshop. As our conversation veered towards September 11, I can sense that he is a fan of Osama bin Laden. He asked me, “What do you think of President George W. Bush?” I paused for a while and said:
“The two sides share many things in common:
1. Each believes that he is right and the other is wrong.
2. Both Al Qaeda and the US Pentagon use knowledge management or KM (Al Qaeda uses networking, websites, technology, manuals and how-to’s, hands-on training, mentoring; its leaders may not call what they are doing KM, but nevertheless these are all KM tools).
3. Both use violence.
I think the two are perfect for each other.”
He thought for a long while before we could resume our conversation.
What then is KM for? In my KM Framework or F Series of blogposts, I proposed a simple framework that shows the fundamental connection between knowledge and action, and between action and results desired by the actor. I provided examples of how to apply the framework in various situations.
It is the actor (who is the conscious or unconscious user of knowledge and KM) who defines what intended result is valuable to him or her. KM is for value creation, and what is valuable is defined by the user. Now, what is valuable to one may be harmful to another — the current conflict in the Gaza Strip is a dramatic reminder. There are mild versions of this gap: in community development, what are valuable to the community do not exactly coincide with what are valuable to the donor institution.
Can KM be used to address these issues? If so, how? Is KM only for value creation, or can KM be used also for value destruction? Is this a problem of KM, or is this a problem beyond KM?
Are we missing anything in the above story and analysis? Are there other ways of viewing this issue? Are we asking the right questions?
What do you think?