What is Knowledge Management?


What is Knowledge Management (KM)?

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Knowledge management is a system that creates, captures, distributes, and utilizes data to the benefit of an organization. This system specializes in organizing a wide range of information assets such as structured databases, textual information, and tacit knowledge and expertise from employees.

How do experts define knowledge management?

Several experts have offered their own definition of knowledge management, but they often revert to the one offered by Tom Davenport back in 1994. According to him, knowledge management is “the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” Very few definitions could succinctly describe the nature of knowledge management, thus Davenport’s one-line explanation remains to be used until today.

A few years later, Gartner, Inc.—then known as Gartner Group—has offered a more detailed definition of the term. In their report titled “The Knowledge Management Scenario: Trends and Directions for 1998-2003,” the group described knowledge management as “a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access, and use of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets include structured databases, textual information such as policy and procedure documents and, most importantly, the tacit knowledge and expertise resident in the heads of individual employees.”

Both of these popular definitions describe knowledge management in an organizational and corporate orientation, which can be connected to its origins. Michael Koenig explained that the concept can trace its origins from the consulting community, which first realized the potential of the Intranet flavor of the Internet to link geographically dispersed and knowledge-based organizations. Soon, consulting firms were able to connect across organizations and share and manage information through intranets. This capability soon became a product, thus the name Knowledge Management.

What are the components of knowledge management?

Generally speaking, knowledge management is based on three main components: people, processes, and technology.

Under the People component are the attitudes, skills, motivation, capacity, and vision of the individuals. Processes, on the other hand, include workflows, best practices, standards, and procedures. Finally, Technology, which involves the software, hardware, applications, platforms, databases, websites, and analytics.

While these three components are the foundation of knowledge management in every organization, these have different weights. Its success can be divided as such: 70 percent belongs to the people, 20 percent to the processes, and, the remaining, to technology.

It must still be noted that each component cannot be without the other. Technology, in particular, streamlines and facilitates the procedures of knowledge management, which consequently motivates the learning individual. This is why knowledge management applications, including learning management systems, are vital to the learning and development component of an organization.

What types of knowledge are often managed?

Experts often categorize knowledge into three types: explicit, implicit, and tacit. Each organization has an abundance of each type of knowledge, though different approaches are required to effectively communicate and share these information.

Explicit knowledge are the ones written down, easily accessible, and the ones usually intended for reuse. Implicit knowledge, on the other hand, aren’t written down but instead already part of the practice and can be made explicit. Finally, tacit are all the knowledge gained from experience and personal contexts, and is often impossible to write down.

All knowledge is valuable, regardless of its type, but knowing the difference among these types will be crucial in knowledge management. Learning a new language, for instance, is a type of tacit knowledge that would require immersion among native speakers. Learners, however, need not fly to a certain country and become fluent with their knowledge: the latest innovations on knowledge management make it easier to connect learners with native speakers. Now, a language can be learned in a classroom under the tutelage of a certified language instructor.

The latest technologies have further enabled learners to replicate the immersion experience in the form of digital and media-rich learning content. Learners can simply access their resources anytime and continue their lessons during their free time.

What is knowledge management trying to accomplish?

At its core, knowledge management is created to replicate, or even create, an information environment conducive to an organization’s research and development efforts. By developing a method for easier communication and access, an organization can then deploy all vital information throughout all levels. Koenig further explains that knowledge management builds “rich, deep, and open communications, not only within the firm, but also with the outside world.”

Apart from a conducive information environment, knowledge management also forms the capability of an organization to establish exceptional situational awareness. This concept, though recently introduced in the context of knowledge management, is often associated with aviation: the term often means the “perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future.” Situational awareness allows an organization to make the right decisions based on the environment.

How is knowledge transferred?

Fundamental to knowledge management is to make knowledge accessible within and across different organizations. This is where the term “knowledge transfer” comes in, which is used to denote “a very broad range of activities to support mutually beneficial collaborations between universities, businesses, and the public sector.” It is also described as a “fundamental process of civilization” that is “central to learning which in turn is critical to development.” This is considered a key feature in any knowledge management solution or application.

Knowledge transfer, however, is a challenging process for most organizations, given that they play host to massive amounts of information, yet it’s a challenge that executives will need to address. By developing better ways to transfer all relevant information, companies can use knowledge as their competitive advantage, therefore allowing them to create unexpected value that sets them apart from their competitors.

Apart from this, knowledge transfer is also vital to addressing inevitable organizational issues such as operational gaps. It’s a given fact that employees come and go, though they often take their knowledge with them. This could mean the loss of knowledge on key business relationships, customer insights, or even the understanding of how an organization works or how a product has been produced. By ensuring that the knowledge retained by departing employees will be cascaded accordingly, organizations are reducing the risk of losing many kinds of knowledge.

Solutions, such as a learning management system, are fundamental in effectively transferring knowledge. By serving as a single repository for all learning resources, a learner can easily access the knowledge relevant to their functions at their own pace. Modern learning management systems even have a record-keeping capability, which enables learners—and even teachers—to keep track of their progress and gauge their performance.

Why is knowledge management important to an organization?

There is a bigger need to efficiently capture and distribute knowledge, especially in a modern world where people are inundated by a steady stream of information from different channels. In fact, scientists have discovered that mankind is broadcasting two quadrillion megabytes of information – equivalent to reading 174 newspapers from cover to cover every day. This staggering amount of data further underscores the increasing importance of knowledge management.

It’s no secret that knowledge is an important aspect for organizations to grow and succeed, but they will need the means to properly sift through the abundant data and select the information relevant to their business. This also applies to organizations from different sectors – business, government, and the academe – that deal with staggering amounts of data on a regular basis.

Organizations from various sectors cannot gain actionable insights from a vast amount of data without an efficient system that can serve as a filter. Thus, in an increasingly data-driven world, integrating knowledge management is a must.

While there are numerous benefits of implementing knowledge management, organizations simply need to keep these three compelling reasons in mind:

  • Making learning a routine. An organization can achieve immeasurable success if it fosters a culture wherein everyone continuously assesses themselves and looks for areas of improvements. Knowledge management gives organizations the venue to review their processes, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and suggest ways to do better. This constant stream of learning and relearning builds newer knowledge, which can then be used to streamline operations.
  • Improves decision-making. Organizations have a wealth of information at hand, but they face difficulty in processing them. By integrating knowledge management, massive amounts of data can be processed, leaving only the bits and pieces vital to decision-making. This, in turn, allows organizations to create better and more informed decisions.
  • Opportunities for innovation and change. Knowledge management stimulates the exchange of ideas across all levels of an organization. With the availability of valuable insights and ideas, organizations are then empowered to shift towards change and innovation.

With these benefits in mind, integrating knowledge management into your organization clears a path towards growth and success. Paying attention to your own learning and development strategies will have a significant return on investments in the end.

Knowledge management continues to be more sophisticated as technology becomes more advanced. Soon, organizations worldwide might have the capabilities to share massive amounts of data at an impressive speed. For now, knowledge management is facing a bright future, which can work for the benefit of your organization.

ADEC Innovations offers a wide range of Knowledge Management solutions that can maximize the utilization of knowledge assets in both academic and corporate settings. With our roster of eLearning solutions, services, and products, we aim to empower organizations and institutions by providing learners – their employees and students – with an exceptional learning experience. To learn more about our services, contact us today.