Knowledge Symmetry

This is something I talk about when making a presentation about Knowledge Management. The question that people ask is why they should share knowledge. We have grown with the paradigm of “knowledge is power” and if we have spent effort to gather knowledge, i.e., power, why we should share it, and diminish power that we may have. Quite a common question. And this is where I like to look at it as a flattening world. A few years back, say two decades, the world was uneven with respect to access to knowledge. There were some people who had access to knowledge, and hence knew what needed to be done, why and how, and there were others who didn’t have access to knowledge, and hence, didn’t know, and were supposed to do. This has changed with something far simpler than social computing. What say Google, anyone? Today, if you need to find information about any topic, you just Google it, and the information is available to you. In this sense, the disparity in access to information is reducing to a large extent.

Question is what are the implications of this? One is, access to knowledge is not necessarily a source of power, because what one person knows, can be found out from the web, unless it is something which is so specific that nobody apart from that one person knows it (theory of relativity, maybe?), and i feel there aren’t many such topics. What this means is that the “knowledge is power” paradigm is changing to one which we come across more often, “knowledge shared is knowledge squared”.

What are the implications for organizations? One implication is that knowledge about what should be done, how and why is not necessarily in the hands of a few, rather, it is available at all levels in the organization. This concept comes from times before the web made this change, only, it was called experience. With the flattening that we are seeing, this availability of knowledge is something which is being understood. Some organizations have understood this, and some organizations are in the process of understanding the concept, and also how this can be applied to bring about greater value to the entire organization by tapping into these sources of knowledge. And this, somewhere, I feel, is where the underlying principle of e 2.0 comes into the picture.

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