Knowledge Management and Knowledge Systems for Rural Development By: C. G. Hess, Consultant, firstname.lastname@example.org; May 2006
In: READER: GTZ Knowledge Management. GTZ Sector Project Knowledge Systems in Rural Development, www.gtz.de/agriservice
Knowledge Management (KM) is a relatively novel management concept. It has been pushed by the rapid developments of Information and Communication Technology. ICT facilitates a speedy exchange of data, information and documents. There is groupware for communication; content management systems to organise and retrieve documents; expert systems, data mining and text mining systems, tracing services and search engines, e.g. Google. Communication via email, fax, and phone - and video-conferences is ordinary business. It is good guessing that technological advances will continue to revolutionize the way we communicate and interact with each other. While the speed and ease to exchange data and information will increase, a new challenge for users emerges: to select relevant data, information and documents. To better understand potential and limitations it is important to recognise the differences between data, information and knowledge. Level
Data consists of numbers, e.g. prices, quantities,
records on income, temperature and so on. Data is
not meaningful in itself but raw material for creating a
Any information contains a message and pursues an
objective. The problem with information is that the
sender of it must check if the receiver understands it
as was intended by the sender. Therefore information
materials must always be tested before mass
Explicit knowledge can be described, written down
and documented (i.e. encoded). Behavioural rules,
agricultural calendars, curative treatments, scientific
theories represent explicit knowledge. Explicit
knowledge is largely acquired in formal educational
Implicit knowledge is acquired through enculturation
and experiences in one’s socio-cultural environment.
Implicit knowledge is complex, logical and value laden
but often unconsciously acquired and learned. .
Therefore, it is difficult to explain to an outsider who
does not belong to and the same social group. Due to
its implicit characteristics it also is difficult to
document. Much of our daily routines, behaviour,
ideas about good life, success, tasty foods rest on
Sources: Michael Polanyi 1966; Nonaka/Takeuchi 1995, Davenport/Prusak 1998; What is this distinction between data, information, explicit and implicit knowledge good for? It helps to understand that ICT is most useful for shuffling data and information and to some extent for transferring documented knowledge. However, ICT is of little avail for transferring complex or implicit knowledge. The challenge to knowledge managers consists in organising encoded knowledge resources but also in bringing knowledgeable people together, so they can share their distinct knowledge and experiences. By facilitating creative and relaxed
GTZ READER: Knowledge Management and Knowledge Systems for Rural Development communication people can synergize their insights and learn new, interesting things from each other.
Additional to ICT developments, a publication by Nonaka/Takeuchi (1995) The KnowledgeCreating Company had kicked off enthusiasm about knowledge management in organisations. The authors suggest that innovations result from creative combinations of explicit knowledge, or of combining explicit with implicit knowledge. An example from a Japanese Enterprise in Osaka will illustrate their argument: the company wanted to develop a bread machine in the 1980s (Nonaka/Takeuchi 1995: 78). Laboratory research did not provide the recipe...