FCW cartoonist and blogger John Klossner ponders the nuances of knowledge management’s tautological terminology.
My new favorite term is "simulation." Simulation is the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) term for flopping or falling down to make it look as if you were illegally contacted by an opponent during a soccer match. If the referee buys the simulation, either you receive a free kick or your opponent receives a foul or -- even better -- expulsion from the game. I witnessed a lot of simulation in the recently completed 2010 World Cup. I'm far from being an aficionado of football -- the term that most of the world uses for soccer -- but I'm starting to appreciate the fine art of simulation. (I was rooting for one of the landlocked countries to win the cup, but their dry spell -- no pun intended -- will continue for at least another four years.)
I didn't realize that FIFA, international soccer's governing body, was a federal agency. Not that our country has a monopoly on Orwellian phrasing. Plenty of governments -- including those of landlocked countries -- have mastered the art of euphemistic terminology, as has the business world and the technology industry. I have a good friend whose husband is an IT guy, and she says when they are out for dinner, she half expects him to ask for the restaurant's documentation, rather than a menu. The combination of technology- and federal agency-speak is a perfect storm for language vagueness.
I have especially become appreciative of the terminology used in the world of "knowledge management" -- a term that is now being used for what used to be called social networking. (And still is for those, like me, who are woefully behind such linguistic developments. I still call Tampa Bay’s baseball team the Devil Rays, for instance.) It's as if the people in charge of these designations don't think "social networking" sounds serious enough. Knowledge management sounds much more grown up, although couldn’t I also say that’s what I’m doing while working on the Sunday Times crossword puzzle?
The goal of knowledge management -- summed up in a phrase that I found referenced in numerous locations -- is to get the right information to the right person at the right time. After reading numerous pieces on knowledge management, it also seems as if you have to include the word "knowledge" in that information.
A quick perusal of FCW.com found the following terms in the knowledge management world: knowledge services, knowledge-enabled, knowledge transfer, knowledge repository, knowledge portal, knowledge discovery, knowledge coordinators, knowledge audit, chief knowledge officer, knowledge networks, knowledge management integration, knowledge sharing and -- of course -- knowledge professionals.
Here are a couple thoughts or, in the spirit of the conversation, some "knowledge dissemination from a knowledge amateur":
* I worry about the term "knowledge discovery.” Is there someone out there who says "I work in knowledge discovery?" How about "I used to be in knowledge discovery, but I left it for the private sector?" "I need some time off from my work in knowledge discovery?" Let me put it this way: If I ever stop my work in knowledge discovery, please take my pulse.
* Is "knowledge audit” another term for the SAT exams?
* If there are "knowledge-enabled" workers, does that mean there are "knowledge disabled" workers?
I started thinking about this when I read of a discussion about the differences between "formal" and "informal" knowledge networks, which began with one writer's concerns that agency information should be dispensed through a "formal" knowledge network. If you look further into arguments for "formal" knowledge networks, you get the feeling that hoping to control knowledge sharing via formal knowledge networks is the knowledge management equivalent of shoveling against the tide (or, the oceanic knowledge legacy).
It makes me afraid to read about the intelligence community.