Keywords: knowledge management, artificial intelligence, human learning, organisational learning, mind, holistic/heuristic model, classification framework, thought-pattern, self-organising system, community of practice, artefact, metaphor, interaction, conversation, discourse, dialogue, meaning
Knowledge management at a branchpoint: will we ignore the lessons of the AI discipline the way it ignored the lessons of Ludwig Wittgenstein?
We possess a rich philosophical legacy around the composition and function of mind. Ludwig Wittgenstein in particular, and Michael Polanyi, have enabled a modern definition of mind as an unknowable, inaccessible, indescribable, unmodellable, inarticulable corpus of connections, with a holistic rather than a heuristic composition. This entity I term "thought-pattern", our evolving "Weltanschauung", which is driven by empirical episodes and which is chaotic, complex, open, inferential, adaptive, self-organising, and emergent. The artificial intelligence discipline, for many years, ignored the obvious fallacies in their work, which their philosophical forebears bequeathed them (and which would have led them to a definition such as the one above) and soldiered on uselessly. The knowledge management discipline is poised to be victim to the same fallacies, inherited now from both Wittgenstein and the AI fraternity. Our emphasis on defined processes to govern behaviour, on learning as a discrete activity, on the modellability of knowledge structures, on physical artefacts as representations of knowledge (supplanting dialogue), and on acquisitive over inquisitive behaviour, will undermine rather than enhance our organisational learning posture and reflect the same hubris that afflicted the AI discipline. We can reverse this trend in our organisations by turning away from "solutions" to largely unstated problems and focusing instead on fundamental values like heterogeneity, empowerment, enabling people, providing opportunities for interaction, nurturing nascent communities, and sharing.