Originally published July 14, 2014

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The field of knowledge management is broad. It continues to evolve in parallel with related fields such as:

  • Information Management
  • Learning and Development
  • Library Science
  • Philosophy
  • Social Media

Organizations use a variety of terms to describe their efforts. Many people complain that “knowledge management” is a poor term. I led a lively discussion on this at KMWorld 2013 where I shared the following list of names (which I have updated for this post):

  1. Best Practice Replication
  2. Best Practice Transfer
  3. Business Improvement Services
  4. Collaboration
  5. Collaboration Systems
  6. Collective Learning
  7. Communities
  8. Digital Enterprise and Digital Workplace
  9. Digital Transformation
  10. Enterprise 2.0
  11. Enterprise Collaboration
  12. Enterprise Content Sourcing
  13. Enterprise Learning and Collaboration
  14. Enterprise Social
  15. Enterprise Social Network
  16. Insights
  17. Intangible Asset Plan
  18. Intellectual Capital
  19. Intellectual Property
  20. Knowledge and Information Management
  21. Knowledge and Information Sharing
  22. Knowledge and Learning Processes
  23. Knowledge Development
  24. Knowledge Enablement
  25. Knowledge, Engagement and Collaboration
  26. Knowledge Exchange
  27. Knowledge Flow Management
  28. Knowledge Management
  29. Knowledge Processing
  30. Knowledge Publishing and Curation
  31. Knowledge Retention
  32. Knowledge Science
  33. Knowledge Services
  34. Knowledge Sharing
  35. Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
  36. Knowledge Transfer
  37. Learning and Knowledge Exchange
  38. Learning Communities
  39. Learning from Experience
  40. Management
  41. Organizational Effectiveness
  42. Post-Industrial Knowledge Age Transformation
  43. Performance Management
  44. Radical Connectivity
  45. Social Business
  46. Social Collaboration
  47. Social Learning
  48. Social Media
  49. Social Networking
  50. Tackling Wicked Problems

One of the reasons people say KM is dead has to do with the name for knowledge management. There are always people saying that we shouldn’t call it knowledge management, that we should call it something else. All of the 50 different names suggested above for it have some validity. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but we’re still calling it knowledge management. That’s the label that stuck. Spending a lot of time talking about what we should call it probably isn’t as helpful as worrying about how to do it better.

Knowledge Management has been around as a term for over 20 years, while other terms such as “Enterprise 2.0” have come and gone during that time. So even if it is not the best term, it is a recognized one, and attempts to replace it have not been successful so far.

Nick Milton wrote, “ ‘Knowledge sharing and reuse’ is better than ‘Knowledge sharing,’ but you need to add Knowledge Creation to the list as well, and probably Knowledge Synthesis, and definitely Knowledge Seeking, so by the time you say ‘Knowledge creation and seeking and sharing and synthesis and reuse’ you might as well say ‘Knowledge management.’ Knowledge Management does not imply the management of pieces of knowledge, any more than Time Management means the management of pieces of time. As Etienne Wenger said, ‘If by manage we mean to care for, grow, steward, make more useful, then the term knowledge management is rather apt.’ ”

There was a discussion about this in the SIKM Leaders Community. There were parallel threads in ActKM and KM4Dev.

See also:

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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