Generally, knowledge is interpreted, subjective information within a context, which involves understanding and is mostly tacit, not explicit. Knowledge can take many forms. It can be in the form of thoughts, insights, ideas, lore, lessons learnt, practices, and experiences undergone to name just a few.
The term knowledge management has become common in businesses throughout the world. Despite its increased prevalence, there remains a large degree of confusion concerning the applied definition of what knowledge management is. Within the knowledge management community, attempts at defining this elusive term appear to be in constant flux.
However, a basic description of what constitutes knowledge management, and the various factors leading to its importance, source, problems, and other basic related issues necessary to achieve a general understanding have been provided below. This field guide is intended to provide information concerning these issues in terms that are applicable in any situation. Obviously each business has their own sets of definitions, applications and style with respect to this tool.
There are prevalent definitions of knowledge management needing to be highlighted. First, that knowledge management (KM) is the discipline that enables productive generation, retention, sharing and maintenance of knowledge to improve the decision-making process and resulting actions. Alternatively, one can state that knowledge management is the process by which individual learning and experience can be accessed, reflected upon, shared, and utilized in order to foster enhanced individual knowledge and, thus, organizational value.
It is an approach to managing thoughts, insights, ideas, lessons learnt, best and worst practices, experiences made available, etc. Managing this knowledge requires that knowledge is captured where it is created, shared between people and applied in business processes. If the culture allows and encourages it, and if technology supports it, then learning will happen. Currently, 85% of organizations said their ability to strategically manage knowledge is weak, 80% said hiring, evaluation, and compensation practices do not take knowledge into account, 70% believe knowledge assets can fuel growth – both revenue and core competencies.
Knowledge ps a continuum ranging from Explicit to Tacit:
Explicit: being more data/information oriented content which can be captured and reused effectively generally without further human instruction, example or experience. Rote processes are good examples of explicit knowledge.
Tacit: that knowledge which requires development of intuition and judgement, generally the result of experience and/or close relational learning modeled by the journeyman/apprentice model.
As knowledge goes from tacit to explicit, the volume decreases as the information is captured into a generally useable form:
Culture and technology are shown here as the key drivers of knowledge management, and both encompass many things. Culture is more than just people – it covers behaviour, organisations and reward structures, for example – just as technology is more than just IT – we use it to mean the whole supporting infrastructure for knowledge management. Technology is the key driver for capturing and using knowledge, while culture is key to the activities of sharing and learning.
Capturing core knowledge: characterised by a growing awareness of the kinds of knowledge that relate to a core capability. This phase is dominated by identifying and locating that knowledge and putting in place the technical infrastructure to facilitate capture. The organisation recognises the value of knowledge management to its business, and begins its journey with a few successful pilots, which then attract the interest of a wider community.
Sharing between communities: the organisation provides means and motivation for communities of practice (CoP) to assemble (induced by a business need) and disassemble (if the business need disappears). CoPs differ from teams in that they are driven by a common interest, whereas a team is driven by a common purpose or business objective. This distinction is important, as we wish to encourage sharing between teams, not just within them, and CoPs represent a much wider community. This phase is community-driven and dominated by experiments in knowledge capture, sharing and application within and between different CoPs.
Consolidate knowledge for use: as more CoPs form and share their knowledge, information overload and relevance of knowledge become issues. This phase is dominated by the need to impose structure and standards on the core knowledge bases, and to ensure adequate management of the Web, or any other means of linking and accessing the growing knowledge stores. The organisation discovers the need to balance freedom of expression and business focus.
Creativity and learning: this is when managing knowledge becomes a standard business practice, and is characterised by significant cultural change. The pace of learning quickens, solutions improve and the speed of innovation increases as we work in new ways.
Why is Knowledge Management Necessary?
While there are many reasons for pursuing KM, three main objectives stand out:
1. to capture and transfer internal knowledge and best practices;
2. to increase employee capabilities; and
3. to capture, transfer and use/leverage customer and market information.
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