In the field of knowledge management, complexity and changing organizations, it’s easy to have conversations where one person is talking past another. Have you ever stood there wondering what a colleague is trying to explain while they seem really sure of what they are saying?
One way to help clarify concepts is to use metaphors. Yesterday on Twitter (via @NancyWhite) I saw this example that visually illustrates the difference between data, information, presentation and knowledge. A picture is worth a thousand words in this case, particularly for people working with knowledge!
Another great metaphor for understanding tacit knowledge is the iceberg metaphor from Anecdote.com (blogged in 2007, fantastic description). They visualize knowledge as above and below the waterline. Most of the mass of an iceberg lies below.
Lastly, a simple way to explain complexity is provided on page 9 of the highly recommended book Getting to Maybe. They use metaphors such as baking cakes, launching rockets and raising children. Thanks to Gary Ockenden for sharing that one with me a few years ago.
Do you have metaphors you use to explain concepts related to knowledge or complexity? Please share!