Re: Knowledge Theory

From: Mark W. McElroy (
Date: Sat Nov 18 2000 - 07:44:43 PST


My name is Mark W. McElroy. I'm Chairman of the KMCI Institute's Governing Council
(its board). Thank you for your response to our broadcast announcement. Please see
my comments below in response to your queries.

Rod Welch wrote:

> It appears that KMCI's curriculum can provide guidance. Has KMCI settled on a
> definition that distinguishes knowledge from information, and can you suggest an
> example of work being done that illustrates this idea? This comes up because
> ontology is thought by some to be a distinguishing feature of KM. Some people
> call this categories or subjects, and some speak of an evolutionary
> epistemology, while others point to the idea of taxonomy.

Rod, a core team of KMCI principals, myself included, developed an ontological model
of knowledge over a year ago. Since then we have enhanced it slightly, but its
composition and use have changed little. We refer to it as the KMCI knowledge life
cycle model, or KLC model. You can obtain a copy of this model at my own website at
the following URL:
In general, the KMCI perspective on knowledge versus information is deeply rooted in
the KLC model and hinges heavily on the notion of validation as performed by
self-organized communities of knowledge (aka, communities of interest, practice,
etc.). Knowledge by our definition is information that has been validated by a
social system; information, on the other hand, is unvalidated and can be thought of
as "knowledge claims" only -- potential knowledge -- but not knowledge, per se.
Knowledge is also, therefore, relative to its holders. Knowledge to me may only be
information to you, because I've validated it but you haven't. Organizational
knowledge evolves in the same fashion. This is where communities of knowledge come
into play. Communities create new knowledge and serve as the validting
intermediaries between individually-held knowledge and organizationally-held
knowledge. This is why communties play such an important role in our KLC (we call
them "groups").

As for work being done in this area, there's lots of it. First of all, our
perspective is strongly aligned with attempts to aplly systems thinking to
organizational learning, including Peter Senge's efforts, and the separate but
related work being done in the complexity science arena (i.e., complex adpaptive
systems theory). For example, in my case I have been developing a methodology
designed to enhance organizational knowledge production using principles taken from
the KMLC model and complexity theory. This includes construction of an on-line
simulator developed using system dynamics tools from High Performance Systems and
which, again, can be found on my website: I would also point to all of the work
being done my may others in the community building arena such as Etienne Wenger and

> On 000113 I asked the president of KMCI, Ed Swanstrom, about these matters, and
> he indicated that KMCI is working hard to formalize KM, but has not yet
> resolved the foundational matters that Doug's DKR team is addressing....
> Doubtless, KMCI has made a lot of progress since last January. Will all this be
> covered in the course you are offering that explains a theory of knowledge?

Yes, that is our intent. It's all bundled under the heading of "2nd generation KM."

> Any help is greatly appreciated. By copy, I am alerting the OHS/DKR team about
> your important work, and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you, Rod.



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