Topic of Interest
|View the answers to this topic >>||View other topics >>||Suggest a topic>>|
Knowledge Management And Society*
Although the use of knowledge for practical purposes began more than 10,000
years ago, the theory of “knowledge management” has had a much more recent
development. Why? One of the most common hypotheses is that for the first
time, humanity now has at its disposal a critical mass of sciences and methods
that allows us to shape almost all aspects of the world.
We all live in environments that have been artificially altered by the advances of science and technology. Cities are an obvious example. However the most isolated areas are suffering catastrophes as a result of the poor use of our technical resources. The dissemination of information tends to replace the traditional functions of memory and human labor. Farming production is now based on animal or plant genetics. Medicine now replaces organs rather than repairing them in a traditional manner. We live in a new setting that many are calling the “knowledge society.”
Twenty years ago, large businesses began to develop management programs that took advantage of the intellectual capital of their employees. They discovered that organizations can be agents of learning and innovation, or rather intelligent organizations.1 Curiously, universities and educational centers took much longer to assume this new perspective in spite of the fact that the academic world has, since the eighteenth century (from the time of Immanuel Kant), created theories to explain the production and scope of knowledge. The various branches of modern epistemology subsequently took shape.
We can interpret these trends in two ways. On the one hand, it is clear that society has evolved by taking advantage of technical resources. This offers a pragmatic dimension to knowledge. On the other hand, humanity discovered that behind the methods were rules of reality (and hence the emergence of science) and that behind science were rules of knowledge (and hence the emergence of epistemology).
“Knowledge management” is the convergence of these two processes. In principal it offers methods for improving the performance of organizations with intelligent resources, such as making explicit the implicit knowledge of individuals and of the organization. Resources include the computerization of functions, although it has been shown that use of the computer alone is not sufficient to simplify procedures. An information culture for management and employees must also be present and training is essential.
On the other hand, and this is more crucial for educational institutions such as universities, knowledge management proposes creating an organizational culture that allows all of the actors to assume the scientific, pedagogical and management practices of the organization. Many institutions lack the capacity for “self-knowledge” and end up prisoners of bureaucratic inertia. Both self evaluation and external evaluation demonstrate this deficiency. Some universities and research institutions are analyzing the trends of science, technology and society in order to establish adequate knowledge policies.
The idea of managing knowledge seems relatively simple. However in practice it is difficult to implement given the complexity of knowledge, the actors and the factors in play. Strong resistance to self-knowledge exists at both the individual and collective levels. Raising awareness of what we do and what we create with our knowledge seems to be an excessive goal. Knowledge management is a new effort to bring us closer to a more rational society.?
Augusto Pérez Lindo, Ph.D.
University of Buenos Aires / Inter-American Open University
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.