d. Knowledge Management-a practioner's perspective


Nov 6, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)


Knowledge Management

A practitioner

s perspective


What is knowledge management (KM)



Key concepts

First, what is knowledge

In simplest terms, knowledge is the ability of
an actor to respond to a body of facts and
principles accumulated over a period of time

One way to look at knowledge is as the
apogee of the following continuum




Data=1 unit of fact; information=aggregation of
data; knowledge=potential for action on

Data and information have intrinsic properties, the
quality of knowledge depends on the properties of
the agent

What is knowledge management

There is no universal definition for
knowledge management

At its broadest, KM is the

through which organizations generate
value from intellectual and knowledge
based assets

Knowledge assets

There are two types of knowledge

Explicit or formal assets like copyrights,
patents, templates, publications, reports,
archives, etc.

Tacit or informal assets that are rooted in
human experience and include personal
belief, perspective, and values

The value of knowledge assets

Knowledge assets are often described
as the the intellectual capital of an

The value of intellectual capital is often

A popular measure is the difference
between the cost of capital assets and the
cost of replacing them

The value of KM

It is important to manage knowledge assets

Organizations compete increasingly on the base of
knowledge (the only sustainable competitive
advantage, according to some)

Most of our work is information based (and often
immersed in a computing environment)

Our products, services, and environment are more
complex than ever before

Workforces are increasingly unstable leading to
escalating demands for knowledge

The development of KM

Knowledge began to be viewed as a competitive
asset in the 80s, around the same time that
information explosion started becoming an issue

The trend was fueled by the development of IT
systems which made it simple to store, display, and
archive classified, indexed information

The process received a fillip after Drucker (and
others) stressed the role of knowledge as an
organization resource, and Senge popularized

learning organizations

Seeds of KM may also be found in business practices
like TQM and BPR to which KM is often compared

The sources of KM

Today, KM draws from a wide range of

Cognitive science

Groupware, AI, KBMS

Library and information science

Document management

Decision support systems

Technical writing

Organizational science

Many more

KM today (catch

There is a great risk today of KM over
reaching itself

Everything from organizational learning to
business and competitive intelligence has
become fair game for KM

There are KM components to each of these
but these spaces are however best left to
specialized practitioners

The scope of KM

Today, most companies define the
scope of KM as

KM mechanics (tools for information

KM culture (knowledge as a social activity)

KM systems (knowledge sharing as part of
an organization

s DNA)

KM mechanics

Information management may well be
considered the first wave of KM (and is still
often considered synonymous with KM)

Information management tries to make the
right information available to the right person
at the right time though a variety of database
driven information applications

Information management tools try to capture
the human experience of knowledge through
the collecting, classifying, disseminating,
searching, indexing, and archival power of

Limitations of mechanical KM

Reliance on technology produces consensual
knowledge (over
reliance on best practices
for instance) and may stifle innovation

The notion that

right information

predictable and flows from historical data
may be flawed

Making information available in not enough;
getting people to use it is more critical

KM culture

All knowledge has a social and
evolutionary facet

There is a crying need to continuously
subject knowledge to re
and modification

It is important to keep the human and
social elements of organization involved
in all stored knowledge

KM culture through CoP

Communities of practice (or thematic groups)
are a popular way of injecting KM culture in
an organization

CoPs are fora where members share
information and experiences, develop new
insights, assimilate and transform knowledge

CoPs emphasize shared interests and work
across locations and time zones (often using
technology developed during KM

s first wave)

KM systems

KM succeeds fully when it is woven into the
fabric of an organization and becomes
intrinsic to an organization

s processes

Common practices include

Formal KM leadership

Formal rewards and recognition for KM oriented

Tools and mechanisms that encourage knowledge

Development of knowledge bases

Intellectual asset management

Metrics to evaluate KM initiatives

KM systems today

In many ways, the systemic approach is the
logical culmination of KM mechanics and KM

Many KM systems are however not yet robust

KM metrics (surveys, benchmarking, cost/benefit
studies, service evaluation)

are still an inexact

Knowledge workers are often KM resistant (KM is
frequently considered an oxymoron)


the report card

Clearly, the jury is still out on KM though
there is increased acceptance that KM can be
central to organizational success

The key achievements of KM have been in
emphasizing that

There is a tacit dimension of knowledge creation
which must be recognized and valued

Knowledge is subjective and interpretative and
distinct from raw data or information

Meaning is central to knowledge creation

Knowledge is social and interactive in nature

Technology is an inalienable aspect of KM

KM readings/references

Good sources on the internet include

The KM forum (

The CIO magazine

s knowledge management
research center

The KMNetwork (

The KM resource center

KM readings/references


The KM literature is vast, but good starting points

Nonaka, Ikujiro, and Hirotaka Takeuchi.
The Knowledge
Creating Company.

Senge, Peter M.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of
the Learning Organization

Wiig, Karl, M.
Knowledge Management Foundations:
Thinking About Thinking

How People and Organizations
Represent, Create and Use Knowledge

Menou, Michel J. (Ed.). Measuring the Impact of Information
on Development

Harris, Michael H.
History of Libraries in the Western World