One of the concepts Steve Barth and I have been developing is the idea of Knowledge Tense. We spoke to it at KM World in 2007, and then again I used it in the context of innovation at KM World 2008 in a workshop.
We wanted to distinguish between past, present and future tense knowledge, not having seen or heard this distinction before. Needless to say, we are just beginning to think about knowledge this way.
It occurred to us that most "knowledge" considered by knowledge managers and their organizations is past based knowledge= tacit, implicit and explicit. And, this is where most KM efforts are focused around codification (excessive in most cases) into repositories with attendant taxonomies, ontologies, etc. This really begs the question of knowledge creation/generation in the moment, e.g., as we find in innovation processes, and how that should be facilitated.
And if we consider that strategy is developed and strategic decisions are made in the present from anticipated futures, then it’s pretty clear, at least to us, that there is future based knowledge being used in these processes.
The working definitions of knowledge tenses that we have used in our thinking are:
· Past Tense = tacit, implicit & explicit
· Present Tense = inquiry & discovery
· Future Tense = possible, plausible, probable
Past tense knowledge is always lagging knowledge creation: In the present, we are generating new knowledge and information through a process of inquiry and discovery, hopefully using collaboration and social networking tools to capture it and use it in the moment - but once codified, regardless of method, knowledge has already begun to be less than it was when it was created. Why?
Well, there is always that old maxim (modernized here) that "We always know more than we can say, and we always can say more than we can write". I think you get the idea, eh?
In processes designed to develop strategy (e.g., scenario planning) or thinking about future trends and developments or just musing on what might be headed our way, we are anticipating knowledge - what might be known, could be known, and what needs to be discovered and known. We can draw distinctions to the differences by categorizing such anticipated knowledge as possible, plausible, and probable (thank you, Max Boisot!). And, anticipated knowledge can be as rich as the futures we can envision and narrate.
Steve and I think this is a rich concept, we think it needs to be discussed, developed and refined further. See our presentation for how we think this works in practice, and where each tense is used within the context of the presentation examples of innovation and strategic decisions from KM World 07 here: Download KM World 2007 FINAL_no animation .