This fascinating video (with transcript and follow-up post) on Patrick Lambe’s excellent blog (Green Chameleon) has turned out to be something of a hit, generating quite a discussion.

There’s far more in it than I can do justice to here, but I was struck by two core questions – what is the future for “knowledge management” as a field or practice in itself and what is the future for the phrase “knowledge management”?

I think that “knowledge management” as a practice has always been important and always will be, but the name may well change again and again (I’m sure the basic idea has been referred to as all sorts of things in the past). The lifespan of names is getting shorter and shorter these days, driven by the need to appear innovative and cutting edge all the time. There is also a tension – as people become specialised – to distinguish themselves from each other. This happens in every discipline – biologist, zoologist, ornithologist, herpetologist, virologist, etc. What I am not so sure about is whether “information professional” is accepted and well enough understood as a catch-all, so that “knowledge managers”, “records managers”, “librarians”, “information architects”, “enterprise content managers” etc are all seen as cousins in the same family. I’m also not sure if what is going on at the moment with “knowledge management” is is a kind of vying for dominance of the different terms, so at one point it looked like “knowledge management” would be the one and only catch-all term (rather than “information professional”, “information scientist” etc) and that other terms are now rising to prominence. What I am convinced of, however, is that everybody needs to talk to each other as much as possible and not let names turn into silos. Just as in a taxonomy – the labels are supposed to be signposts, not barriers.