The search for the unified definition of Knowledge...
I could not resist!
Knowledge has nearly as many definitions as the number of authors who wrote about it or about a related subject such as Knowledge Management (by the way, you can find quite a few definitions of KM as well and maybe this explains that).
Well, guess what, I had to give “my” own definition!
On the ActKM listserve (http://www.actkm.com/ ) a still on-going debate on the definition of knowledge generated very valuable insights. I have extracted a few extracts and composed a definition attempting to synthesize the thinking of all these bright individuals:
Dave Snowden (http://www.cognitive-edge.com/ ) quoting Prusak and Davenport in their book “Working Knowledge”:
"Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms"
Joe Firestone’s definition (http://www.kmci.org/media/Whatknowledgeis%20(non-fiction%20version).pdf ):
“Knowledge is a tested, evaluated and surviving structure of information (e.g., DNA instructions, synaptic structures, beliefs, or claims) that is developed by a living system to help itself solve problems and which may help it to adapt.”
Han Van Loon’s version of Joe’s definition (http://www.lc-stars.com/ ):
"Knowledge is a learned and analysed structure of awareness based upon
information (e.g., DNA instructions, synaptic structures, beliefs, or
claims) that is developed by a living system."
A suggestion of a synthesis:
Knowledge is a learned and evaluated fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insight; that is developed by a living system. In organizations, knowledge often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms.
Living systems use knowledge either instinctively or in a state of awareness (typically the latter first then the former through acquisition of reflexes for repetitive actions) to compete for resources and survival, through solving problems, adapting to challenges and setting objectives.
Still on the ActKM listserver, Kaye Vivian (http://dove-lane.com/ ) writes:
“The abstraction we call "Knowledge" has three aspects (I propose):
(1) what is acquired by learning
(2) the sum of everything known
(3) a state of awareness
and perhaps a fourth for those who argue that knowledge can exist in neural, hormonal or sensory systems:
Kaye goes on then asking us all if we can think of an instance of knowledge that does not fit into any of these four aspects. Assuming for a moment that none can be found, I think that my suggested definition above does try to cater for all 4 of these aspects.
But hold on! Don’t get over excited! I surely have not suddenly stumbled on the unified definition of knowledge. I will post it on ActKM as well and I anticipate quite a bit of constructive criticism. I will keep you informed and will amend the definition accordingly.
So watch this space...