I'm not sure what you are specifically talking about but I do believe that our field needs an open, honest discussion of what works. Wikipedia is one place to do that. So is this site.
Why don't you start a discussion on the ICKC that gives your definition of IC and see what others think?
Just listened to some of the video from your event in San Francisco. Interesting indeed. Thanks for putting those up on the blog.
As far as 'my definition' of IC is concerned, I hope my blog interactions with Stuart Shaw suffice. Bottom line is that there can be no real 'definition' of IC - this is where Leif and I (and I guess the majority of your audience and fellow-bloggers) diverge.
From an epistemological or technical point of view, searching for a definition is an attempt to bring IC into the causal framework/analysis from which it offers an escape. Ultimately the value of the KM thrust over the last 20 years or so is that it offers an escape from purely causal analysis - and the irony that there can be no viable theory of entrepreneurship or 'theory of the firm' so long as we stay wedded to that as the One True Way of thinking.
KM, IC and all the associated paraphernalia is rendered valueless within that kind of 'rigorous' framework. In this sense practitioners' interest in KM as presented by, for instance, Nonaka & Takeuchi, - and not as the computer folk present it - is their intuition that it is imagination, creativity and so on that matter, not the kind of causal explanation which rigorous analysis offers (in which BSchools specialize to their cost).
OK, I argue that IC is to do with what we do NOT know about, for instance, the resources to hand. The classic analysis here is that of Edith Penrose and her "Theory of the Growth of the Firm".
We might likewise recognize entrepreneurship as the activity of reconceptualizing the value of resources whose values are expressed or reflected in market valuations. If the entrepreneur cannot both imagine and articulate those resources into something of higher value there is no hope for her/his enterprise. IC is to do with this capacity. To define it - as we normally use the notion of definition - is to mistake IC's nature and imaginative root/s. So the attempt to define IC is, among other things, an attempt to define the ultimate value of things. If we knew this it would bring economic activity to a halt.
And so on.
My earlier comment - which you noted was rather gnomic - is grounded in my belief that the value of our IC about IC (are you OK with this reflexivity?) is seriously constrained if we think we can address it using the methods of the natural sciences and its focus on what we think we know.
My hope is to help shift peoples' attention onto what we do NOT know, and thereby help us engage and think about the remarkable human capacity for imagining how things might be made different. I presume this is what drives the economy.
I was just editing this blog when the system decided to trash my comments!
I'll happily work on it again if there in any interest in my point/s.
JC - It looks like your comments came through. I think it is important to highlight this tension in our field and not get too dogmatic about labels and classifications. Having said that, I find that it does help to put some names on intangibles to help people "see" them.
I'm curious...do you work with companies directly using these ideas? How do you translate it for managers?
Thanks for responding. I was editing and doing my best to clarify the earlier post - but it crashed on being saved. One thing I find emotionally challenging is rewriting something that has been lost - so I abandoned the idea of doing the same edits again.
Yes, of course labels and definitions are comfortable for us. It is the way we have been trained to think about things. But, to take an extreme example, I am not sure labeling 'love' really helps me understand my relationship with my wife - or any of my other relationships.
Yet loving is an instance of how knowing - or not knowing (when it is agony) shapes our being. So love might be better understood as a way of viewing the world - I'm in love, I'm in love - or I love her and not her.
But what to make informative about this label? Rather than trying to define 'love' - as we tried to in high-school to distinguish between 'just friends' and 'serious' - we learn it is always mixed up with other things, and always attached to real-world situations, even though these are often echoes of the past. Love is ultimately tied up with the experience of living, an essentially subjective notion that resists being 'objectified' - which is the intent behind our labels and definitions.
'Knowledge' is like 'love' in many respects (without getting into the religious literature), especially in its resistance to being objectified. This is my basic point of departure from many of those working in the 'knowledge-management' field. I do not think 'knowledge' can be usefully objectified. The attempt to define it and 'model' its creation or 'movement' is very misleading.
When I started writing about 'knowledge' in the organizational and business context some 30+ years ago - after beginning to read, say, Machlup, Knight, Polanyi and Penrose, I was puzzled about why my engineering training (I used to build nuclear reactors) did not seem to be helping.
It took me a while to discover it is because 'love' like 'knowledge' is actually what Niklas Luhmann calls a 'self-referencing' term. It is not an 'externally referenced' term like 'green' - which we can illuminate by pointing to 'red' - thus 'left' is 'not-right'.
We cannot understand 'knowledge' by pointing to 'not-knowledge'. If we point to 'ignorance', say, we have to know that ignorance before it can help illuminate 'knowing' - and our understanding of 'ignorance' is surely also something we 'know'. So knowledge refers to something we cannot define in ways that lets us 'step out' of it into some contrary way of being. Knowledge and love are the ultimate self-referencing terms that resist the kind of quasi-scientific labeling we are trained into thinking of as the foundations of what we 'know'.
All of this - which I'm sure many people think is sheer gobbeldy-gook - shows the impact of our positivist epistemological training on our thinking, and how it is difficult to escape its grip. But such thinking is no more than a bad habit, especially because it induces dogmatism.
When it comes to being 'dogmatic' this is a particularly loaded term. Dogma refers not to what is known but to a way of 'knowing' - specifically to regarding something as being beyond being disputed or doubted.
The challenge for those who want to work with knowledge management is to see how it opens up possibilities beyond those available to us in a positivist framework. I used to be an engineer and I also worked for IBM. Yes, of course I know how useful moving information can be - which is why there's a good industry there. But calling the information that IT systems handle 'knowledge' merely confuses. Knowledge is MUCH more complicated (and richer) than information. Many in the KM field conflate the two - which is to miss the promise that KM offers.
The positivist way of thinking insulates us against the impact of what we do NOT know - yet the fact that one does not know the consequences of an action might incline one to take out some insurance against being wrong, right? That seems like 'good management'.
Thus the practice of living in the real world - replete with its uncertainties and other 'knowledge-absences' - leads us to appreciate that what we do not know affects our behaviors - and strategizing and so on. How might we fit this piece of wisdom into our KM schema?
It is for these reasons that I have been writing for many years that KM is important precisely because it brings the matter of what we do not know into view - in Rumsfeld's phrase it is about the unk-unks.
The business of gathering up and exchanging information on what we do know is, without doubt, important, and has been so for many years before the more specific focus on 'knowlege' arose with, for instance, Nonaka & Takeuchi's book. Those interested in earlier KM might find reading Taylor's 'Principles of Scientific Management' (1912) or Veblen's 'Theory of the Business Enterprise' (1904) worthwhile. I have nothing against IT and its non-computerized brethren, so long as they are not dogmatic in arguing they are the entirety of KM.
The irritating thing about dogmatism is its denial of doubt. Few in the KM field seem to doubt they know what they mean by 'knowledge' - as such what they say is 'dogmatic'. Many seem to think the distinction between, say, information and knowledge is unimportant. While I totally disagree with Ackoff's analysis, I still think his attempt to see the distinctions is very useful and opens up a sort of KM.
But my main point here is that by doubting our (positivist) understanding of knowledge we move closer to managers whose behaviors are shaped by (a) the sense of practice as a specific form of knowing that goes beyond information and (b) their awareness of the strategic importance of what they do not know.
Ultimately, of course, the notion of strategy turns on what we do not know. The idea that strategizing (an important sub-field of KM) turns merely on the analysis of what is known about, say, the market, is not at all helpful to practicing strategists. One of the attributes of Porter's 5-force analysis is that it draws managers' attention to what they do not know about, say, the maneuverings of those who might yet choose to enter the business (which may not strike those familiar with Porter's work as an appropriate interpretation - so I would recommend the recently published Huggins & Izushi OUP book on Porter's work).
You ask how to discuss these issues with managers - perhaps looking for an alternative vocabulary of definitions, models and so on?
Those with strategy consulting experience know there is no difficulty here. Managers do not need another vocabulary - they already have one, and they know what they know and what they are concerned about not knowing. The consultant's challenge is to make some sense of what s/he is hearing and seeing. And the more s/he enters the situation believing (dogmatically) that her/his vocabulary is 'superior' to that of the managers the less successful the interaction will be. This is what lies behind the subtlety and power of Penrose's analysis.
Of course, this leads directly to the question of 'what exactly might a consultant be able to do for these managers?'
The positivist approach implies the consultant is there to 'put them right' - a special variety of dogmatism. While the positivist part of KM may well be about putting a business's information system right, the agenda that interests me - as a strategy theorist, entrepreneur and consultant - is the very opposite. And thereby hangs everything I have been writing over the last three decades.