Defining Knowledge Management

When talking about knowledge management (KM) I use the following ‘definition’. Knowledge management is about connecting:
  1. People to people;
  2. People to information;
  3. Information to people;
  4. Information to information.

In short:
(1) is about helping people find other people (knowledge) that can help them solve their problem, answer their question, collaborate with them, etc.

(2) is about helping people find relevant information to be able to do their work (pull).
(3) is about pushing information to people so they can do their work, are kept up to date about new issues, etc. (push)
(4) is about aggregate data and information into new information (semi-)automatically. Then this can be used for 2 and 3.

Basically the reason why you would want to manage information is the enhancement of organisational and personal performance.

This definition summarizes the important aspects of KM.

But I was wondering where I got this definition from… Is it my definition? Or did somebody else come up with it?

I looked around. In some KM definitions you see 1 and 2 show up and sometimes 3, but never 4. E.g. in a presentation about Expert Location Systems APQC says these systems, a.o.: connect people to people and link people to information about people. And NCC defines KM as "connecting people to people in new ways, people to information in new ways, and information to people in new ways". But where did their definition come from? Or is it theirs?

Kaye Vivian limits KM to 1 and 2, when she writes: “Knowledge management is a business process that connects people to people and people to information for competitive advantage and better decision making.”

The Elsua Knowledge Management blog has a similar definition: KM is “a systematic process of connecting people to people and people to the knowledge and information they need to act effectively and create new knowledge”. (Taken from: Carla O’Dell, The Executive’s Role in Knowledge Management.)

So, we have three definitions with elements of my(?) definition.

APQC, O'Dell and Vivian mention the first two elements. This definition of KM seems to originate from O'Dell. NCC has the first three elements, but it's not clear where they got it from.

So does anyone know who’s the 'owner' of NCC's definition? And if my(?) definition is published somewhere?


  1. Hi Samuel,
    interesting thoughts, and I would like to extend your thinking a bit. KM is about connecting, but goes beyond. If nothing flows (knowledge, experience, new views, ...) across the connection, and if the reciever(s) don't use this flow to create something of value (for their business, for themselves), nothing changes. So logically KM should care about creating flow as well as creating action. I think this explains why infomrtion to information is never mentioned in KM definitions: Information is never an end-goal, but rather an intermediate.

    hope this is useful

    Jeroen Alberts

  2. Thanks Jeroen. Yes, your comment is useful! I wasn't confortable with the word 'connection' anyway.
    I agree information to information is not an end goal. My idea with the definition is that you can't leave one of the points out. So information to information leads to new information to people etc. Or isn't that convincing either?


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