Knowledge Management Consortium, International
312 Fairgrove Terrace, Suite 200
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 10:44:43 -0500

Mr. Rod Welch
The Welch Company
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111 2496

Subject:   Knowledge Theory


My name is Mark W. McElroy. I'm Chairman of the KMCI Institute's Governing Council (its board). Thank you for your response to our broadcast announcement. Please see my comments below in response to your queries.

Rod Welch wrote [on November 17, 2000...]

It appears that KMCI's curriculum can provide guidance. Has KMCI settled on a definition that distinguishes knowledge from information, and can you suggest an example of work being done that illustrates this idea? This comes up because ontology is thought by some to be a distinguishing feature of KM. Some people call this categories or subjects, and some speak of an evolutionary epistemology, while others point to the idea of taxonomy.

Rod, a core team of KMCI principals, myself included, developed an ontological model of knowledge over a year ago. Since then we have enhanced it slightly, but its composition and use have changed little. We refer to it as the KMCI knowledge life cycle model, or KLC model. You can obtain a copy of this model at my own website at the following URL:

In general, the KMCI perspective on knowledge versus information is deeply rooted in the KLC model and hinges heavily on the notion of validation as performed by self-organized communities of knowledge (aka, communities of interest, practice, etc.).

Knowledge by our definition is information that has been validated by a social system; information, on the other hand, is unvalidated and can be thought of as "knowledge claims" only -- potential knowledge -- but not knowledge, per se. Knowledge is also, therefore, relative to its holders.

Knowledge to me may only be information to you, because I've validated it but you haven't. Organizational knowledge evolves in the same fashion. This is where communities of knowledge come into play. Communities create new knowledge and serve as the validting intermediaries between individually-held knowledge and organizationally-held knowledge. This is why communties play such an important role in our KLC (we call them "groups").

As for work being done in this area, there's lots of it.

First of all, our perspective is strongly aligned with attempts to aplly systems thinking to organizational learning, including Peter Senge's efforts, and the separate but related work being done in the complexity science arena (i.e., complex adpaptive systems theory). For example, in my case I have been developing a methodology designed to enhance organizational knowledge production using principles taken from the KMLC model and complexity theory. This includes construction of an on-line simulator developed using system dynamics tools from High Performance Systems and which, again, can be found on my website:

I would also point to all of the work being done my may others in the community building arena such as Etienne Wenger and others.

[Rod Welch wrote on November 17, 2000...]

On 000113 I asked the president of KMCI, Ed Swanstrom, about these matters, and he indicated that KMCI is working hard to formalize KM, but has not yet resolved the foundational matters that Doug's DKR team is addressing....

Doubtless, KMCI has made a lot of progress since last January. Will all this be covered in the course you are offering that explains a theory of knowledge?

Yes, that is our intent. It's all bundled under the heading of "2nd generation KM."

[Rod Welch wrote on November 17, 2000...]

Any help is greatly appreciated. By copy, I am alerting the OHS/DKR team about your important work, and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you, Rod.


Mark W. McElroy
Macroinnovation Associates, LLC

Copy to:

  3. John T. Maloney