Knowledge sharing is an ancient and adaptive behavior, but history cautions that the emergence of new ideas—spread through new media—is often resisted by The Powers That Be. That was the case in most organizational cultures until the 20th century when industrialization generated the need for more scientific management practices, which in turn led to more perceptive techniques for internal analysis. Using those techniques, organizations over the past 50 years have identified information handling as the great challenge heading into the 21st century. In this chapter, we describe how knowledge management theory has responded to that challenge and how the subject of this book—online knowledge networking—has developed, since the invention of the computer, as a valuable practice for uncovering and applying knowledge. Throughout the chapter, we provide examples of groundbreaking and current state-of-the-art knowledge networking applications.
As we mentioned at the end of Chapter 1, "Knowledge, History, and the Industrial Organization," some claim that knowledge management is an oxymoron, which
Dictionary.com defines as "a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist." We're not so sure that knowledge management fully qualifies under that definition, but we recognize the shortcomings of a term that implies that knowledge can be managed.