Adaptive Knowledge Management

Alan J. Thomson

Victoria, BC, Canada


Adaptive Management: One definition is

a formal process for continually improving (resource) management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programs. Its most effective form, active adaptive management, is characterized by management programs that are designed to experimentally compare selected policies or practices by testing alternative hypotheses about the system being managed. From Glossary of Forestry Terms: adaptive management rigorously combines management, research, monitoring, and means of changing practices so that credible information is gained and management activities are modified by experience

Adaptive Knowledge Management: a method for managing Knowledge Ecosystems,, by analogy with the above, is

a formal process for continually improving communication policies and practices, by learning from the outcomes of operational programs. Its most effective form - "active" adaptive knowledge management - is characterized by communication programs that are designed to experimentally compare selected policies or practices, by testing alternative hypotheses about the communication process. (Thomson 2005)

Alternative hypotheses about the processes being communicated will also guide the experimental design. In the AKM context, policies are regarded as a form of communication that can be the subject of experiments.

Adaptive Knowledge Management guides development of hypotheses about:

  • Communication costs (both time and money)
  • Roles
  • Expertise
  • Responsibilities
  • Flow and transformation of information
  • Products

and facilitates exploration of:

  • Criteria and Indicators (tools for conceptualising, evaluating and implementing projects and programs)
  • Human-computer interactions and knowledge translation
  • Potential products
  • Report formats
  • End user satisfaction
  • Pilot study outcomes
  • Communication trade-offs

Case Study: a participatory sustainable forestry project based on Principles, Criteria and Indicators

A set of Criteria and Indicators from the Centre for International Forestry Research was used to develop a web-based form allowing people to specify their indicators of interest. On submitting the form, a program would return a customized report (Thomson 2005).

Figure: Web-based form for selection of the indicators of interest, based on the CIFOR set of Principles, Criteria and Indicators.

The case study illustrated a hypthetical report of interacting indicators: alternative policies on resource rights (Indicator I1.5.3 - Existence of property rights for exploited non-timber forest products (NTFPs) (e.g. fuel wood)), and biodiversity (Indicator I.2.1.4 - The richness/diversity of selected groups show no significant change).

Figure: Interacting indicators

The system automates production of customized reports that can be prepared as hard copy documents, web pages or audio (narrated) reports on cassette and in a selected language. The reporting structure permits individuals to contribute material to interim reports and facilitates the tracking of their knowledge contribution to the decision process. These customized reports mitigate problems of information overload, as well as increasing the satisfaction of the recipients with the participatory process.


Thomson, A.J. 2005. Indicator-based knowledge management for participatory decision-making. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 49: 206-218.

© 2012 Adaptive Knowledge Management - All rights reserved.