Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The Evolving Taxonomy in Our Brain

Our brains appear to work with a constantly evolving taxonomy in place to help us make sense of the information we encounter.  Here is an example to illustrate what I mean:

I have been developing a new course on Knowledge Management for Project Managers.  In the process of developing course materials, I am reviewing a large amount of materials, anything from academic articles to infographics.  The volume of materials can easily become overwhelming, but I have a couple of things in place to help me chunk it into manageable pieces.  First, I have a course outline with four modules, each of which covers a specific theme and each theme has several sub-topics.  This organization helps me put resources I encounter into the module buckets both.  This happens either when I drag and drop into a folder assigned to a specific module, when I cut and paste a citation into a document as a reminder to use it later, or when I save a resource in my Diigo social bookmarks collection and tag it appropriately.

This morning, as I scrolled through my tweeter feed, I came across two familiar names, which probably got my attention:  Helen Blunden tweeting something which turned out to be from Nick Milton's site.

It was something about the terms "knowledge sharing" vs. "knowledge management."  Three months ago (before I started working on this new course), this would also have caught my attention but not in the way it did now.  Three months ago, my reaction would have been, "here's another discussion about avoiding the term knowledge management."

Today, I reacted with the following stream of consciousness:
"No, you can't use the term 'knowledge sharing' to replace 'knowledge management' because knowledge sharing is only one component of the knowledge management cycle.  That's that's in Module 1, Part 3.  Do I want to add this as a link in the resources for that module?  Should I just tag it in my Diigo collection?  Can I turn it into an interactive piece within the video lecture by turning it into a question for the course participants?"
In other words, I'm encountering some information and I immediately, almost automatically analyze it and manipulate it in the context of my current brain taxonomy which is entirely made up of 4 course modules and a dozen sub-topics.  This currently dominant taxonomy in my brain doesn't replace anything that was there before.  It temporarily supersedes AND complements existing ways of organizing all these resources related to Knowledge Management.  This entire past year has been heavily focused on teaching Knowledge Management in various formats and to different audiences, which required a lot of digging into materials and figuring out ways to re-purpose and use these resources.

Does this matter at all?  Is that not just part of my mental framework?  How flexible are our mental frameworks?  Can we change how we see the world by adopting new "taxonomies"?  Can we do this purposefully?  Is there any benefit to being aware of our own taxonomies?  Am I just misusing the term "taxonomy" when I should be saying "________"?

As is often the case, this post is a bunch of half-baked thoughts.  It started as a little insight and turned into a half-baked thought when I actually took the time to write it down -- that's codification, explicit knowledge, which is in Module 1, Video Lecture 1 -- see, I'm doing it again, associating every KM-related thought with the course framework.