All Life Is Problem Solving

Joe Firestone’s Blog on Knowledge and Knowledge Management

All Life Is Problem Solving header image 2

KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management: Part Nine, Doug Cornelius and KM 2.0 in Law Firms

September 13th, 2008 · 2 Comments


At the same time Bill Ives offered his blog, Doug Cornelius began a series of blogs on “Law Firm Knowledge Management 2.0.” Cornelius defines Law Firm Knowledge Management 2.0 as: “Law firm knowledge management 2.0 is about incorporating Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 technologies and processes into the law firm knowledge management toolkit.” And he poses the question:


“(a) enterprise 2.0 is a subset of knowledge management (b) knowledge management is a subset of enterprise 2.0 (c) knowledge management is the same thing as enterprise 2.0 (d) knowledge management has nothing to do with enterprise 2.0?”


He doesn’t quite answer the question he poses, however. Instead he says:


“I have come to the conclusion that enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management are two disciplines that need to join together.”


And he says further:


“Incorporating enterprise 2.0 technologies into the knowledge management toolbox, gives people easy to use – easy to learn tools. It allows them to capture and organize their information in a way that works for them. The focus of knowledge management should be on the individual, by giving them tools for personal use, the content of which can leveraged by the rest of the enterprise. Knowledge management is trying to get people who do similar things communicating with each other and collaborating. Then capture that collaboration for their own re-use and re-use across the enterprise. That sounds like what the enterprise 2.0 movement is about.”


This view of Cornelius’s makes a vague kind of sense, but it relates collaboration, communication, content, and a greater capability for individuals to organize information which can be more easily aggregated to the organization level. The mystery however, is what this all has to do with knowledge processing and KM. Certainly the statement above doesn’t make the connection between enhanced collaboration, communication, content, etc. and Knowledge Management except to assert that KM “is trying to get people who do similar things communicating with each other and collaborating.” However, it’s hard to see why it is not just Collaboration Management, rather than Knowledge Management.


In addition to these general views on the subject, Cornelius included specific ideas relating various Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 tools to KM 2.0. Wikis remove the technological barrier in capturing content, but they require attorneys to synthesize that content in wiki pages. The synthesis is an advantage over an e-mail approach. The stream of edits may be pushed out to subscribers, and may be easily searched and and results retrieved, The wiki can act as a simple content manager. But it can also engage subscribers in conversations.


RSS feeds are viewed as a tool that makes wikis more powerful. They disaggregate content from source. One can see new content without going back to a web site, and also see the flow of information rather than just static content. “RSS turns a webpage from a repository of information into a broadcaster of information.”


Cornelius sees blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds as the three most important Enterprise 2.0 technologies. Blogs are easily publishable html web pages, providing the ability to quickly capture knowledge and publish it, and making it available for others to find and search. Law firm administrators can use them “to make the law firm community aware of new information, policies and happenings.” Others can participate in blogs by adding comments. So, blog posts and comments are captured elements of collaboration and communication.


In his blog series Cornelius also comments on how wikis, blogs, and RSS feeds can combine with earlier technology tools (presumably KM 1.0 tools) to produce enhancements in knowledge sharing. Thus, Document Management systems produce repositories in which it is hard to find information and content one is looking for. But wikis and blogs can “identify and highlight the better content in the document management system,” and this can enhance search within these repositories. Going further, blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds can provide people with a more organized, searchable and sharable form of communication than e-mail, whose use needs to be reduced in Law firms. Also, there are problems associated with enterprise search. These include accessibility, searchability, and findability. A key problem associated with these is the idea of doing one search across all sources – the idea of federated search (though Cornelius doesn’t use this last term). However, even though this problem is raised, no explanation is given of how blogs, wikis, RSS feeds or other “KM 2.0” tools can help with enterprise search.


The series on “Law Firm Knowledge Management 2.0” ends with a summary post. One statement in the post clarifies very well Doug Cornelius’s idea of KM.


“These are just technology tools. At its core knowledge management is about collaboration and sharing. Different people and different groups communicate and collaborate in different ways. As a knowledge management professional, I focus on bringing people together to communicate and collaborate. I want to give them tools to make it easier for them to communicate and collaborate.”

He sees Web 2.0 tools as enhancing communication, collaboration, and sharing and that’s why he talks about “KM 2.0.” This makes clear a positive aspect of his point of view. That is, he’s quite aware that KM 2.0 is not just the new software tools. Rather, he views it as getting people to collaborate, communicate, and share through the use of a combination of old and new tools. But my question is: why is this KM 2.0, rather than Collaboration Management 2.0? What’s the difference between these two fields? Why is there no attempt in his treatment of KM 2.0 to distinguish between information and knowledge, or information sharing and knowledge sharing? And why, finally, is there no attempt to distinguish between the acts of collaboration, communication, and sharing, and Knowledge Management itself? Cornelius’s series is another example of the conceptual blurring of key distinctions we find in much writing about KM. At the beginning of his series, Doug Cornelius posed the questions:


“(a) enterprise 2.0 is a subset of knowledge management (b) knowledge management is a subset of enterprise 2.0 (c) knowledge management is the same thing as enterprise 2.0 (d) knowledge management has nothing to do with enterprise 2.0?”

And as I said earlier, he never answered these questions. We can now see some reasons why. First he has no clear ideas about the differences between content, information, and knowledge. Second, he has no clear idea about the differences between Information Management, Content Management, Collaboration Management, and Knowledge Management. Without such distinctions, however, how can one analyze the relationship between Enterprise 2.0 and KM 2.0, since Enterprise 2.0 is clearly a much broader concept and must include all of these types of management, and still other types, in addition to Knowledge Management?


To Be Continued

Tags: KM 2.0 · KM Software Tools · Knowledge Integration · Knowledge Making · Knowledge Management

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 dougcornelius // Sep 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Joe –

    Thank you for you thoughts. I have a hard time distinguishing between the different disciplines and the different definitions.

    Frankly, I do not see clear distinction between information and knowledge. Knowledge has greater value than information, but I am not sure how to distinguish between them. This is the first I have seen the term “collaboration management.” They also seem to be closely related in approach and goal.

    I have chosen to not to draw lines because the front line worker does not care about the distinction. They want access to the data/information/knowledge/content to be able to do their job and to able to find it when they need it.

    Yes, I have blurred the lines, but I think the lines are blurry to begin with. I would like to hear more about how you draw the distinction.

  • 2 Joe // Sep 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Doug,

    Welcome to All Life Is Problem Solving and thank you for your comment.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about the distinction between information and knowledge. Some of that thinking is available here:

    I also think that the distinction between them is necessary for KM to exist as a field distinct from Information Management. Some may believe that it’s not a distinct field, of course, but then, why should they write or speak about “KM 2.0.”
    In addition to the distinction between information and Knowledge, I also think there’s a distinction between Information Management and Knowledge Management, that is quite important. I’ve formulated and discussed that distinction in Chapter 3 of my book with Mark W. McElroy, Key Issues in the New Knowledge Management.

    Collaboration Management had a brief run a few years ago. Google yields 101,000 hits for the phrase as compared with more than 19,000,000 for KM. I don’t agree that the goal of collaboration Management is the same as KM, but, of course, that depends on one’s view of KM. I think I saw a reference in your work to Ray Sims’s recent survey of definitions of definitions of KM, so you know about the wide divergence existing in the field. I believe that the goal of KM as an organizational function is to enhance knowledge processing, and also that this is not the goal of collaboration management or content management or information management or data management. You’re right when you say that the front line knowledge worker doesn’t care about distinctions like the above. But the front line worker should care because without such distinctions we have no discipline of KM, we have no growth of knowledge about KM and knowledge processing, and we also don’t have reliable knowledge about what KM initiatives will be successful and which will not. The bottom line is that without distinctions and a strong theoretical foundation, there is no real KM, and there is no help for knowledge workers who want access to higher quality knowledge, rather than just information, to help them to do their jobs. Two papers relating to this point are here:

    and here:

    The first of these was selected best paper of the year 2005 in The Learning Organization: An Emerald Journal.