Looking back: authoritative knowledge #governance


Simard, Albert <albert.simard@...>
 

I contend that knowledge management needs to take a step backward.  

 

In our headlong rush to put distance between KM and industrial era management, we left something important behind.  While engagement and synergy and creation are wonderful to behold, organizations are still organizations.   They are run by people who have authority and make decisions and allocate limited resources to enable action.  Having a compelling body of evidence in hand is necessary but not sufficient; one must also be authorized to use it.  

 

There’s a body of literature on “authoritative knowledge,” although it receives scant mention in the KM literature.  I define it as knowledge that has been formally reviewed and approved for use by an organization or that has been institutionalized by being embedded into organizational policies, procedures, or positions.  

 

Further, there is a place in society for authoritative hierarchies and command and control decision making.  And it’s not just in the military.  When driving through a green light, you want assurance that the other person will stop at the red.  When you buy food at a grocery store, you want to know that a regulatory body has inspected it and that it’s safe to eat.  When a medical scientist develops an improved treatment for cancer, it cannot be used until a medical board formally approves it.

 

Despite knowing the righteous path forward, crossing the boundary between explicit and authoritative knowledge can be a substantial challenge.  Many KM initiatives have failed to establish or sustain themselves despite strong (albeit sometimes anecdotal) evidence of its benefits.   

 

This is an important missing piece of the KM puzzle and we, as practitioners, need to understand it better if KM is to succeed.

 

Al Simard


Murray Jennex
 

One area where authoritative knowledge and KM are being discussed is in Crisis Response and Management.  I'm editor in chief for the International Journal of Knowledge Management and the International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management and have seen a slow growing trend (and have contributed to it) of KM articles addressing crisis response issues, and of course, vice versa (crisis response articles addressing KM issues in crisis response).  I also most of the discussion on organizational and authoritative issues in KM relating to KM strategy in the academic literature and agree that the current emphasis on social media and collaborative systems in KM is not as focused on these issues.  That said, I think we well be getting a series of integrative KM articles as the pendulum on issues swings and I can see that the pendulum is already heading back towards the organizational focus.  So Al, in a long winded way I'm agreeing with you on the need for the focus but I think it is already happening...murray jennex
 

In a message dated 6/27/2012 12:33:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, albert.simard@... writes:


I contend that knowledge management needs to take a step backward.  

 

In our headlong rush to put distance between KM and industrial era management, we left something important behind.  While engagement and synergy and creation are wonderful to behold, organizations are still organizations.   They are run by people who have authority and make decisions and allocate limited resources to enable action.  Having a compelling body of evidence in hand is necessary but not sufficient; one must also be authorized to use it.  

 

There’s a body of literature on “authoritative knowledge,” although it receives scant mention in the KM literature.  I define it as knowledge that has been formally reviewed and approved for use by an organization or that has been institutionalized by being embedded into organizational policies, procedures, or positions.  

 

Further, there is a place in society for authoritative hierarchies and command and control decision making.  And it’s not just in the military.  When driving through a green light, you want assurance that the other person will stop at the red.  When you buy food at a grocery store, you want to know that a regulatory body has inspected it and that it’s safe to eat.  When a medical scientist develops an improved treatment for cancer, it cannot be used until a medical board formally approves it.

 

Despite knowing the righteous path forward, crossing the boundary between explicit and authoritative knowledge can be a substantial challenge.  Many KM initiatives have failed to establish or sustain themselves despite strong (albeit sometimes anecdotal) evidence of its benefits.   

 

This is an important missing piece of the KM puzzle and we, as practitioners, need to understand it better if KM is to succeed.

 

Al Simard


Richard Vines <plessons@...>
 

Hi Al and Murray,

 

I have been an advocate for KM getting a better handle on this notion of authority for some time and have contributed to this in a number of papers. It is also one of the reasons why I have been so influenced by my colleagues in the archival domain because I think they have something to contribute in this space (for example, recent developments associated with the Encoded Archival Context standard and their advocates have something very useful to contribution).

 

But, beyond this, there is a need to better understand the nature of “authority of knowledge” itself and I agree with some of your points below Al. The debate about what gives something authority will have a long way to run and brings to the surface very challenging perspectives (constructivist versus realist perspectives for example)

 

In many ways, authority is a moving target at the moment with the disruptive impact of digital technologies (an example is the raging debate in Australia at the moment about the independence of journalists in newspapers and the claim they contribute to independent, authoritative content”).

 

Journal and peer review processes are still very relevant. At the same time, I think some of the notion of authority is beginning to migrate much closer towards to source of any problem context. This is where context based metadata is beginning to be shown as helpful in this whole are of authority (and can also assist with interoperability as well). THe importance of context metadata is being perceived as more fundamentally important to emergency management systems etc as well.

 

I have found the notion of knowledge hierarchy as quite a helpful way of thinking about this because it creates a framework for integrating personal / tacit / anecdotal knowledge through different manifestations of explicit and what we have called “formal knowledge” or peer authorised etc. In this way, there is not an us them view about tacit versus explicit, subjective versus objective etc etc. Knowledge is an emergent property and through time becomes manifest in different ways and formats and expressions.

 

But, it will  be interesting to see over time how new expressions of authority systems emerge and become manifest in organisations and in citizen centric program delivery frameworks.

 

Cheers for now

 

 

R

 

 

From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of murphjen@...
Sent: Thursday, 28 June 2012 7:50 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: Re: [sikmleaders] Looking back

 

 

One area where authoritative knowledge and KM are being discussed is in Crisis Response and Management.  I'm editor in chief for the International Journal of Knowledge Management and the International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management and have seen a slow growing trend (and have contributed to it) of KM articles addressing crisis response issues, and of course, vice versa (crisis response articles addressing KM issues in crisis response).  I also most of the discussion on organizational and authoritative issues in KM relating to KM strategy in the academic literature and agree that the current emphasis on social media and collaborative systems in KM is not as focused on these issues.  That said, I think we well be getting a series of integrative KM articles as the pendulum on issues swings and I can see that the pendulum is already heading back towards the organizational focus.  So Al, in a long winded way I'm agreeing with you on the need for the focus but I think it is already happening...murray jennex

 

In a message dated 6/27/2012 12:33:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, albert.simard@... writes:




I contend that knowledge management needs to take a step backward.  

 

In our headlong rush to put distance between KM and industrial era management, we left something important behind.  While engagement and synergy and creation are wonderful to behold, organizations are still organizations.   They are run by people who have authority and make decisions and allocate limited resources to enable action.  Having a compelling body of evidence in hand is necessary but not sufficient; one must also be authorized to use it.  

 

There’s a body of literature on “authoritative knowledge,” although it receives scant mention in the KM literature.  I define it as knowledge that has been formally reviewed and approved for use by an organization or that has been institutionalized by being embedded into organizational policies, procedures, or positions.  

 

Further, there is a place in society for authoritative hierarchies and command and control decision making.  And it’s not just in the military.  When driving through a green light, you want assurance that the other person will stop at the red.  When you buy food at a grocery store, you want to know that a regulatory body has inspected it and that it’s safe to eat.  When a medical scientist develops an improved treatment for cancer, it cannot be used until a medical board formally approves it.

 

Despite knowing the righteous path forward, crossing the boundary between explicit and authoritative knowledge can be a substantial challenge.  Many KM initiatives have failed to establish or sustain themselves despite strong (albeit sometimes anecdotal) evidence of its benefits.   

 

This is an important missing piece of the KM puzzle and we, as practitioners, need to understand it better if KM is to succeed.

 

Al Simard


Simard, Albert <albert.simard@...>
 

Murray

 

I’m glad to hear that the crisis management community is beginning to discuss KM J  I evolved from that community to KM in the late 90s.  

 

The history of information systems and forest fire management actually began about half a century ago.  My involvement started in the 1970s.  For example, see “An Executive Information System to Support Wildfire Disaster Declarations,” published in Interfaces in November 1990 (V20, #6) and “A Global Disaster Information Service: A proposal” presented at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction, Kobe, Japan in 2005.

 

My interest in the role of authoritative knowledge and authoritative hierarchies in organizations began when I migrated to Defence R&D Canada.  It soon became clear that the command and control culture wasn’t about to change (nor should it) and I started asking the question: “Now what?”  The result was the knowledge manageability framework (based on the Cynefin sense-making framework), one component of which is authoritative hierarchies and knowledge.  I gradually came to realize that this applies to most (all?) organizations – not just the military.

 

Hence my notion of the need for a new KM paradigm, which can only result from dialogue across the KM community.  Note that I didn’t use the term “paradigm shift” as in the hard sciences, where there is only one paradigm at a time (except during periods of shifting).  In social sciences, there are multiple parallel paradigms, because none is provably correct.

 

 

Al


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of murphjen@...
Sent: Thursday, 28 June 2012 7:50 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: Re: [sikmleaders] Looking back

 

One area where authoritative knowledge and KM are being discussed is in Crisis Response and Management.  I'm editor in chief for the International Journal of Knowledge Management and the International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management and have seen a slow growing trend (and have contributed to it) of KM articles addressing crisis response issues, and of course, vice versa (crisis response articles addressing KM issues in crisis response).  I also most of the discussion on organizational and authoritative issues in KM relating to KM strategy in the academic literature and agree that the current emphasis on social media and collaborative systems in KM is not as focused on these issues.  That said, I think we well be getting a series of integrative KM articles as the pendulum on issues swings and I can see that the pendulum is already heading back towards the organizational focus.  So Al, in a long winded way I'm agreeing with you on the need for the focus but I think it is already happening...murray jennex

 _,_.___

.


Paul McDowall
 

Absolutely, Al. One of the problems with the way KM has been and still is portrayed is as a different style of management. Nothing could be further from the truth. For KM to be relevant it needs to be realistic, as you describe. For KM to be useful it needs to be an enhancement to current management practice not a radical diversion from it. For KM to be understood and accepted it needs to be ultra pragmatic in its outlook and nature. IMHO there's far too much naivete in the way KM is articulated.
Paul

--- In sikmleaders@yahoogroups.com, "Simard, Albert" <albert.simard@...> wrote:

I contend that knowledge management needs to take a step backward.



In our headlong rush to put distance between KM and industrial era
management, we left something important behind. While engagement and
synergy and creation are wonderful to behold, organizations are still
organizations. They are run by people who have authority and make
decisions and allocate limited resources to enable action. Having a
compelling body of evidence in hand is necessary but not sufficient; one
must also be authorized to use it.



There's a body of literature on "authoritative knowledge," although it
receives scant mention in the KM literature. I define it as knowledge
that has been formally reviewed and approved for use by an organization
or that has been institutionalized by being embedded into organizational
policies, procedures, or positions.



Further, there is a place in society for authoritative hierarchies and
command and control decision making. And it's not just in the military.
When driving through a green light, you want assurance that the other
person will stop at the red. When you buy food at a grocery store, you
want to know that a regulatory body has inspected it and that it's safe
to eat. When a medical scientist develops an improved treatment for
cancer, it cannot be used until a medical board formally approves it.



Despite knowing the righteous path forward, crossing the boundary
between explicit and authoritative knowledge can be a substantial
challenge. Many KM initiatives have failed to establish or sustain
themselves despite strong (albeit sometimes anecdotal) evidence of its
benefits.



This is an important missing piece of the KM puzzle and we, as
practitioners, need to understand it better if KM is to succeed.



Al Simard


Simard, Albert <albert.simard@...>
 

Richard -

 

We seem to be about 100% on the same page.  Just as decisions span a spectrum from totally objective (e.g., mathematics) to totally subjective (e.g., feelings), the evidence underling knowledge spans a range from absolute proof to unsubstantiated belief.  Perhaps we could define categories of knowledge based on categories of evidence that supports it.  I know that there was a substantial discussion on the nature of evidence in SIKM a while ago and I suspect that there is much to review from there.  

 

The notion of authority, however, is different.  A person or a group decides that this knowledge is or is not usable in a legal, regulatory, policy, organizational, or other controlled context.  Evidence may be presented, but ultimately the decision may be based on little more than Pigeau’s psychological definition of knowledge: “something that a person believes to be true and encodes in memory for future use.  Note that this definition makes no claims about the actual validity of the belief.  In government, a decision may be based on politics. That makes it unmanageable, but very important from an organizational perspective.  Wining a Nobel prize for curing cancer doesn’t mean that it can be used by hospitals.  It has to be approved by a regulatory body for use and, an insurance company for coverage!  IMHO authoritative knowledge tends to be of a lower “quality” than most evidence-based knowledge because authoritative knowledge is invariably a compromise between many competing considerations and interests (e.g., “Not out of my budget, you don’t!”).

 

Scientific “authority” comes through the peer review and publication processes.  It is strong, but it cannot be proven.  Even scientific knowledge, however, isn’t the end-all and be-all in the real world.  Even so-called “facts” are subject to interpretation.  Have you ever watched a lawyer tie an unprepared scientist in knots?  Isn’t it possible that…

 

Further, scientific knowledge is always very narrow in scope; it has to be to cultivate the growing edge of the body of knowledge.  As a former scientist, I say thank goodness that the world isn’t run by scientists!!!  A policy analyst doesn’t have the luxury of eliminating variables until a relationship is defined in sufficiently narrow terms that it can be tested experimentally at the 99% level of confidence.  The policy wonk has to consider the whole system at once.  Give them 55-45 odds and they have to go with it.

 

Lots to think about.

 


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Richard Vines
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 6:23 PM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: RE: [sikmleaders] Looking back

 

 

Hi Al and Murray,

 

I have been an advocate for KM getting a better handle on this notion of authority for some time and have contributed to this in a number of papers. It is also one of the reasons why I have been so influenced by my colleagues in the archival domain because I think they have something to contribute in this space (for example, recent developments associated with the Encoded Archival Context standard and their advocates have something very useful to contribution).

 

But, beyond this, there is a need to better understand the nature of “authority of knowledge” itself and I agree with some of your points below Al. The debate about what gives something authority will have a long way to run and brings to the surface very challenging perspectives (constructivist versus realist perspectives for example)

 

In many ways, authority is a moving target at the moment with the disruptive impact of digital technologies (an example is the raging debate in Australia at the moment about the independence of journalists in newspapers and the claim they contribute to independent, authoritative content”).

 

Journal and peer review processes are still very relevant. At the same time, I think some of the notion of authority is beginning to migrate much closer towards to source of any problem context. This is where context based metadata is beginning to be shown as helpful in this whole are of authority (and can also assist with interoperability as well). THe importance of context metadata is being perceived as more fundamentally important to emergency management systems etc as well.

 

I have found the notion of knowledge hierarchy as quite a helpful way of thinking about this because it creates a framework for integrating personal / tacit / anecdotal knowledge through different manifestations of explicit and what we have called “formal knowledge” or peer authorised etc. In this way, there is not an us them view about tacit versus explicit, subjective versus objective etc etc. Knowledge is an emergent property and through time becomes manifest in different ways and formats and expressions.

 

But, it will  be interesting to see over time how new expressions of authority systems emerge and become manifest in organisations and in citizen centric program delivery frameworks.

 

Cheers for now

 

 

R

 _,_.___

.


Simard, Albert <albert.simard@...>
 

Thanks, Paul

 

 

I must admit that waiting 14 months (and counting) to obtain two signatures on a form that authorizes me to publish the knowledge services agenda may have influenced my decision to start this dialogue! (just a little)  

 

Al

 


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Paul McD
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 11:45 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: [sikmleaders] Re: Looking back

 

 

Absolutely, Al. One of the problems with the way KM has been and still is portrayed is as a different style of management. Nothing could be further from the truth. For KM to be relevant it needs to be realistic, as you describe. For KM to be useful it needs to be an enhancement to current management practice not a radical diversion from it. For KM to be understood and accepted it needs to be ultra pragmatic in its outlook and nature. IMHO there's far too much naivete in the way KM is articulated.
Paul


Matt Moore <innotecture@...>
 

Al,
 
My response to this is that a lot of KM programmes deal with "authoritative knowledge". A lot of the noise at the moment is around Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration / co-creation but a lot of the actual work I have done over the years (and do now) looks at things like standardised processes, policies and procedures.
 
I don't see those things going away.
 
Matt


Ranta, Dan <dan.ranta@...>
 

The two things complement each other.  The informal feeds the formal structures / processes / methods.  It's a basic aspect of continuous improvement and a KM program built on continuous improvement has a good chance to remain viable and sustainable.  I am constantly fending off the "2.0 world" who can be quite adamant that the latest, greatest piece of software will take us to the top of the mountain.  Let me know if anyone gets to the top of that mountain and I will start to believe!


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Matt Moore
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2012 12:58 AM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: [EXTERNAL]Re: [sikmleaders] Looking back

 

Al,
 
My response to this is that a lot of KM programmes deal with "authoritative knowledge". A lot of the noise at the moment is around Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration / co-creation but a lot of the actual work I have done over the years (and do now) looks at things like standardised processes, policies and procedures.
 
I don't see those things going away.
 
Matt