Knowledge Management Ain’t Actually Going Anywhere

I completely forgot I had posted this over a year and a half ago. I never actually posted it here, but did post about it and provided a link to it at Content Management Connection. Despite the passage of time since I did post it, I don’t really think much has changed, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

PS – Click here to see an up-to-date graph and some regional data as well from Google Trends.

Google Trends Graph

Knowledge Management vs. Social Media Searches via Google

As a result of two tweets I just read; one from @SameerPatel and the other from @ralphmercer, I wanted to get a thought down before it recedes forever into the darkest corners of my brain, where I know I will feel the remnants of its presence, but will also never be able to fully recall it.

Based on something Sameer said I went to Google Trends and searched on the terms “Knowledge Management” and “Social Media”. In the past almost two years, with the exception of a large drop at the end of 2009, and a slight dip at what looks like the end of June in 2010, Social Media searches have been steadily increasing. During that same time period, searches for Knowledge Management – which are now less than a fifth of the searches for Social Media have remained arguably steady, with perhaps a bit of a continuous waning.

I suppose some would suggest this portends the eventual death of KM, but I really don’t think that true . . . or even possible. KM has always been based on the belief that we humans are unique in our ability to pass knowledge on to others, as well as to collectively create new knowledge and retain it for future use.

As I had suggested to Ralph, and what he was kind enough to point out in his tweet, is the reality that it’s “very expensive to reacquire knowledge”. This isn’t something anybody wants to do, anymore than they want to produce re-work or scrap. Yet people seem to be mulling over the viability of KM for the future.

I think the reality is two-fold. First, the need for sharing and re-using knowledge or information continues as strong as it’s ever been. What it’s called is of little consequence and, if KM has gotten a bad rep, then let’s move on and call it something else.

Second, I believe a lot of what we mean when we refer to social media is actually the next iteration of KM, insofar as it enhances collaboration, sharing, finding out what others are doing, etc., as well as captures and makes available collective knowledge and wisdom.

So, what do you think? Has KM run its course, or is it just taking on a new “identity” in the form of social media and (something I don’t think I mentioned above) Enterprise 2.0?

About Rick Ladd

I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining. Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence. I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind. View all posts by Rick Ladd

6 responses to “Knowledge Management Ain’t Actually Going Anywhere

  • Intertwingled in Plain Sight « Systems Savvy

    […] going to continue on a theme from my 4th of July entry, where I kind of resurrected an old post of mine from Content Management Connection. This time, […]


  • beto do valle (@betodovalleTF)

    Knowledge management, social media, organizational learning, open innovation, social business, co-creation…
    The list of terms can go on and on, and they all try to approach some essential issues for organizations. Changes in the number of searches may reflect many things, but not necessarily relevance.

    “Managing” forces like knowledge and relationships, just to mention a few, is essential for any business. Call it knowledge management, social business, social this, social that, whatever. The use of these terms may rise or fall, but it reflects change in language and buzz, not the reality of business practices — where the relevance of influencing knowledge flows and connections is stronger than ever!


  • Sue Waller (@kpsol)

    I would agree with Janders comment that Knowledge Management (KM) is the overarching principle that does not stop or decline, if you take advertising as a simple comparison just because most of the world is now online – advertising has not stopped but found a new medium to connect to and with people. KM is all about connections but relevant connection – not just i got up this morning and ate a burger so with Social media, i think it is important to cut out the ‘not relevant for x, y and z’ but understand the context. I believe that is what true KM practitioners try to achieve, but you may think differently?


  • Nick Milton

    Its informative to also look at the Google Trends for project management, risk management and so on (see,+knowledge+management&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0). These match the Knowledge Management trend very closely. Does this mean that project management is dead? Risk management is dead? I think not – but for some reason, people aren’t searching for these terms so much.

    Similarly the google trends for social media and for Kim Kardashian match closely. Does this mean Kim Kardashian will replace Knowledge Management? I think not – and I know its a silly analogy, but it warns us not to take Google Trends too seriously when looking at the health of a topic, or what might replace it!


  • Janders Dean

    Perhaps we could say that Knowledge Management is the overall discipline which involces core activities such as knowledge creation, harvesting, sharing, adding, etc, and Social Media is yet another vehicle/method/form by which we undertake these tasks and participate in managing knowledge?


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