At the actKM conference this week, one of the speakers was reading from some notes on a flip chart and mentioned the term “knowledge laundering”. What as written was actually knowledge hoarding. However, this set up a running gag about knowledge laundering which created some humour for the rest of the conference. David Williams said that he would be writing a joint paper on the topic. Below are some initial thoughts about where the paper could go.
A quick google search reveals that the term knowledge laundering has been used before. It refers to the act of “laundering” information and knowledge that has been acquired through illegal means (such as reverse engineering or underground research) into what looks like legit results. I think that there is a bit more to it than that. In its broadest sense, it may not mean just illegally gained knowledge, but any knowledge that you don’t want to be linked with you – especially important for politicians. What is required (just like money laundering) is to clean, strip or disconnect that knowledge from yourself. There is a set process to do that:
- Remove all tags and labels from the knowledge to be laundered. Just in case there are any identifying marks there or stains that could have come from organised grime.
- Mix your knowledge with others; one has to confuse the situation – or in this case of knowledge laundering, muddy the waters.
- While some people will attempt to clean the knowledge and separate your knowledge from others, repeated spin cycles (or spin doctoring cycles) should help to deny/disguise/confuse your knowledge from other knowledge objects. It is extremely important in this cycle not to interrupt this process as the laundering could become unbalanced which would then require some personal intervention to restart the whole laundering cycle.
- Finally, if the laundering process has not succeeded and there is still some knowledge that has not quite been stripped of its essential meaning, you can always hang it out to dry. Most people in power are highly adept at hanging things out to dry. Even though their knowledge is exposed for the world to see, they still coming through relatively unscathed because they don’t get close to the knowledge throughout this process.
Any other suggestions that could expand on this notion of knowledge laundering would be appreciated. Just add a comment …