Metaphors for Knowledge and KM

Knowledge Management: Metaphors for Knowledge and KM


by Madanmohan Rao      Oct 28, ‘09

Knowledge Management consultant and author

Email: madan



The fourth annual KM India summit ( kicked off on a rainy weekday in Chennai, drawing a range of KM practitioners, analysts, vendors and academics.


A number of metaphors for knowledge and KM were tossed around during the day, revealing continuing differences over the interpretation of KM and its role in organisations.


Rudolf D’Souza, VP of EurekaForbes, said knowledge is like oil, its value comes across only when it lubricates, fuels and energises an organisation. His company has used KM to discover a new business line and spin it off as a separate subsidiary. EurekaForbes also compares knowledge processes to discovery and nurturing of precious stones; they have Knowledge Gems (discovery of knowledge nuggets) and also Knowledge Pearls – learning from irritants and problems and awarding those who convert these learnings into knowledge nuggets.


Knowledge and IT are more important than oil, according to Ashok Soota, chairman of IT services firm MindTree. Oil is a dwindling resource, but knowledge always grows. There are a growing number of alternatives to oil, but there is no substitute for knowledge.


S. Sadagopan, dean of IIIT-B, likened knowledge to a resource which can be managed and shared, but also said knowledge can be a liberator and knowledge is supreme in the kind of satisfaction and joy it can give to humans.


Gopichand Katragadda, GM at GE Energy Infrastructure, likened the components of knowledge leadership to neurons and DNA. Some components need to be analog and massively networked (neurons), others need to be digital and massively distributed (DNA).


KM India drew over 120 attendees from across India, and perhaps the most hilarious metaphor was used to describe the two attendees from outside India. D’Souza said the audience had two “Goliaths” of the KM field, when actually they were Davids – David Snowden and David Gurteen!


Next blogposts:

KM advantage for India

MAKE India award winners

Case studies of Social media and Social KM

Debate: Does process inhibit innovation? David Snowden (Cognitive Edge) v/s Jagdish Ramaswamy (Wipro Tech)



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