KM versus Social Media

Posted by Brett Young | Friday, November 21, 2008 | | 0 comments »

I came across an article in Social Computing Magazine by Venkatesh Rao which asserts that there is a war between traditional knowledge management (KM) and the new social media (SM). Rao sees SM as the Gen-X solution to the problems that boomers were trying to solve with KM, but failed. Boomers and Gen-Xers come from complete opposite approaches. KM stresses strict order, hierarchy, taxonomy, and content. SM stresses openness, collective knowledge, folksonomy, and people. Regardless of whether you buy into Rao's thesis or not, he raises some interesting observations. Who will win? Rao believes that SM will prevail quietly by default as the boomers slowly retire from the workplace.

In a companion piece by Jeff Kelly, Rao's position is refuted. Kelly not only doesn't believe there's a war, he thinks that SM actually represents a logical evolution of KM. Kelly accused Rao if trying to instigate a war that doesn't exist.

Personally, I've struggled to reconcile the relationship between KM and SM. I'm old enough to have experienced KM and find that a lot of my boomer colleagues still use the term. However, you never hear a Gen-Xer refer to KM. Rao's article made me realize, in a way I had not previously noticed, that KM and SM are diametrically opposed in many ways. At the same time, KM and SM have so much in common, especially in terms of the goals they strive to achieve.

What do you think? Is there a war? Or just a quiet evolution? Does it matter?

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