Irrelevant knowledge

September 17, 2006

I’ve been interested with a small comment by upreuss

How do we define relevant and irrelevant knowledge?
To my mind irrelevant knowledge doesn’t exist. Whether knowledge is relevant or irrelevant is only a question of context like time and place.

And the original question by Christina:

How do we define relevant and irrelevant knowledge? – Is irrelevant knowledge always of negative value? – Do we need to learn to forget irrelevant knowledge?

In some respect I’m quite simplistic about this.

I’ve told you my story about my community with not recognising value.

I’m more hopeful though – where we forget, where we don’t appreciate – it will come back, just in another way and in another time. And what is irrelvant, will probably just slide under the door and be forgotten – it doesn’t need someone to stand up and point out and say ‘this is irrelvant’ – at least usually.  Some irrelvant thinking and ideas are at first seen as wrong, heretical etc.  Who said no idea is good if it at first brush seen as silly? (Einstein?)

I spent some time at a friends’ work yesterday having a look at their internal knowledge management system and learning community. 6,000 people in several continents. Interesting to note that one of their big challenges is figuring out where the knowledge has moved on. What’s relevant 3 years ago in Peru may be quite different now due to a technology advance. Current understanding is highly valuable. Out of date understanding may be costly.

I’m interested in the online flows of ideas, information, wisdom and knowledge. How do people interface with the right stuff at the right time and in the right amount? How also do we find people who know what we are needing to know?

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One Response to “Irrelevant knowledge”

  1. Christina Says:

    “How do people interface with the right stuff at the right time and in the right amount? How also do we find people who know what we are needing to know?”

    Derek, I think you’re hitting the bull’s eye here. And I don’t think there is a “universal” answer to your question either. Some of us might know due to intellect and wisdom but also, and no less important, thanks to instinct, serendipity (which you mentioned in one of your earlier posts) and “guts-feeling”.

    So if we transfer your question to huge and rigid systems that are trying to implement a proper knowledge management system, what may be the answer?
    Who decides what will be (ir)relevant for (the (perhaps fast changing) context of) the organisation in 3 years? And yes, out of date understanding may be extremely costly here.


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