All Information is Not Knowledge

Sept. 1, 2004
John Lijewski, FIIDA

Collecting information is easy enough. Generating value from it is not.

We have said that improved educational resources, international responsibility and a diversified membership base are three key goals for the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) moving forward into our next decade as an association and for the profession. However, most members join IIDA for the educational opportunities that allow for career advancement, making education the most important element of the association's portfolio of services and the natural priority for enhancing the membership experience.All information is not knowledge. In today's fast-paced society, an entity's knowledge base gives it competitive advantage. While many on-line databases exist to acquire product information, and there are various Web sites with narrow industry overviews, what has been missing from the community is a leadership voice to define those items designers need to know to remain informed practitioners throughout their career development. Simply collecting information, though, is clearly not a useful enough exercise to benefit most people. Knowledge Management is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. It is a systematic process of finding, selecting, organizing, distilling and presenting information in a way that improves effectiveness and performance. As a byproduct, it protects a community from the loss of information through retirement and attrition.Consultant David Skyrme describes several reasons a focus on Knowledge Management has grown over the past few years (Visit resource/index.htm).
*Globalization and competition.
Many organizations rely on knowledge to create their strategic advantage. With available knowledge widely dispersed and fragmented, organizations often waste valuable time and resources in "reinventing the wheel" or failing to access the highest quality knowledge and expertise that is available.
* Knowledge can command a premium price in the market
. Applied know-how can enhance the value (and hence the price) of products and services. Examples are the "smart drill" that learns how to extract more oil from an oil field, and the hotel chain that knows your personal preferences and so can give you a more personalized service.
* Restructuring and downsizing.
Without effective mechanisms in place to capture knowledge of experienced employees, organizations make costly mistakes or have to pay again for knowledge they once had on tap.* Sharing of best practices. Companies save millions a year by taking the knowledge from their best performers and applying it in similar situations elsewhere.* Successful innovation. Companies applying knowledge management methods have found that through knowledge networking they can create new products and services faster and better.We know these tenets to be true for our clients. However, it is just as important for the design community to adopt these practices if we wish the profession to grow—improving our customer service and adapting to market changes.It is for this reason that IIDA has created the Knowledge Center, a new on-line resource launching in September 2004. In its first release, it will be open to members and non-members alike. The basis of the Knowledge Center is a curriculum index that can inform one's professional development path, define a higher level continuing education path for professionals, and outline gaps in existing information and research available. Designers will have access to information to support current projects, statistics to back up proposals, and courses to direct their continuing education.IIDA has long upheld its position as a knowledge-based organization, and the Knowledge Center is a tangible extension of that positioning, turning philosophy into action for the benefit of all.IIDA president John Lijewski, FIIDA is a principal at Perkins & Will, New York. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL, and can be reached at (888) 799-IIDA;

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