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What is "knowledge"?
Aren’t we managing knowledge already? Well, no. In fact, most of the time we’re making a really ugly mess of managing information. In practice, the terms information and knowledge are often used interchangeably by business writers. Let’s choose a simple working definition and get on with it: Knowledge has two basic definitions of interest. The first pertains to a defined body of information. Depending on the definition, the body of information might consist of facts, opinions, ideas, theories, principles, and models (or other frameworks). Clearly, other categories are possible, too. Subject matter (e.g., chemistry, mathematics, etc.) is just one possibility. Knowledge also refers to a person’s state of being with respect to some body of information. These states include ignorance, awareness, familiarity, understanding, facility, and so on. There are many thoughtful and thought-provoking definitions of "knowledge" — including the important distinctions Gene Bellinger et al. make in "Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom". Nevertheless, Nickols provides a good, sensible, functional definition, and it is sufficient for our purposes. Nickols’ two kinds of knowledge parallel Michael Polanyi’s often-quoted distinction between explicit knowledge (sometimes referred to as formal knowledge), which can be articulated in language and transmitted among individuals, and tacit knowledge (also, informal knowledge), personal knowledge rooted in individual experience and involving personal belief, perspective, and values. (Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. See also Karl E. Sveiby’s online description, "Tacit Knowledge." In traditional perceptions of the role of knowledge in business organizations, tacit knowledge is often viewed as the real key to getting things done and creating new value. Not explicit knowledge. Thus we often encounter an emphasis on the "learning organization" and other approaches that stress internalization of information (through experience and action) and generation of new knowledge through managed interaction. In the opinion of the editors of Knowledge Praxis, quibbles about fine distinctions in the meaning of knowledge are just not very important. (See Rant #1: Thinking objectively about subjective knowing) It doesn’t matter whether a written procedure or a subject matter expert provides a solution to a particular problem, as long as a positive result is achieved. However, observing how knowledge is acquired and how we can apply knowledge — whether tacit or explicit — in order to achieve a positive result that meets business requirements … that’s a different and very important issue.
Why we need knowledge management now
Why do we need to manage knowledge? Ann Macintosh of the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (University of Edinburgh) has written a "Position Paper on Knowledge Asset Management" that identifies some of the specific business factors, including:
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Marketplaces are increasingly competitive and the rate of innovation is rising. Reductions in staffing create a need to replace informal knowledge with formal methods. Competitive pressures reduce the size of the work force that holds valuable business knowledge. The amount of time available to experience and acquire knowledge has diminished. Early retirements and increasing mobility of the work force lead to loss of knowledge. There is a need to manage increasing complexity as small operating companies are transnational sourcing operations. Changes in strategic direction may result in the loss of knowledge in a specific area.
To these paraphrases of Ms. Macintosh’s observations we would add:
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Most of our work is information based. Organizations compete on the basis of knowledge. Products and services are increasingly complex, endowing them with a significant information component. The need for life-long learning is an inescapable reality.
In brief, knowledge and information have become the medium in which business problems occur. As a result, managing knowledge represents the primary opportunity for achieving substantial savings, significant improvements in human performance, and competitive advantage. It’s not just a Fortune 500 business problem. Small companies need formal approaches to knowledge management even more, because they don’t have the market leverage, inertia, and resources that big companies do. They have to be much more flexible, more responsive, and more "right" (make better decisions) — because even small mistakes can be fatal to them.
Yes, knowledge management is the hottest subject of the day. The question is: what is this activity called knowledge management, and why is it so important to each and every one of us? The following writings, articles, and links offer some emerging perspectives in response to these questions. As you read on, you can determine whether it all makes any sense or not. Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice. An established discipline since 1991 KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, and library and information sciences. More recently, other fields, to include those focused on information 2
and media, computer science, public health, and public policy, also have started contributing to KM research. Many large companies and non-profit organizations have resources dedicated to internal KM efforts, often as a part of their 'Business Strategy', 'Information Technology', or 'Human Resource Management' departments. Several consulting companies also exist that provide strategy and advice regarding KM to these organizations. KM efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, and continuous improvement of the organization. KM efforts overlap with Organizational Learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. KM efforts can help individuals and groups to share valuable organizational insights, to reduce redundant work, to avoid reinventing the wheel per se, to reduce training time for new employees, to retain intellectual capital as employees turnover in an organization, and to adapt to changing environments and markets.
Developing a Context
Like water, this rising tide of data can be viewed as an abundant, vital and necessary resource. With enough preparation, we should be able to tap into that reservoir -- and ride the wave -- by utilizing new ways to channel raw data into meaningful information. That information, in turn, can then become the knowledge that leads to wisdom.
Before attempting to address the question of knowledge management, it's probably appropriate to develop some perspective regarding this stuff called knowledge, which there seems to be such a desire to manage, really is. Consider this observation made by Neil Fleming as a basis for thought relating to the following diagram.
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A collection of data is not information. A collection of information is not knowledge. A collection of knowledge is not wisdom. A collection of wisdom is not truth.
The idea is that information, knowledge, and wisdom are more than simply collections. Rather, the whole represents more than the sum of its parts and has a synergy of its own.
We begin with data, which is just a meaningless point in space and time, without reference to either space or time. It is like an event out of context, a letter out of context, a word out of context. The key concept here being "out of context." And, since it is out of context, it is without a meaningful relation to anything else. When we encounter a piece of data, if it gets our attention at all, our first action is usually to attempt to find a way to attribute meaning to it. We do this by associating it with other things. If I see the number 5, I can immediately associate it with cardinal numbers and relate it to being greater than 4 and less than 6, whether this was implied by this particular instance or not. If I see a single word, such as "time," there is a tendency to immediately form associations with previous contexts within which I have found "time" to be meaningful. This might be, "being on time," "a stitch in time saves nine," "time never stops," etc. The implication here is that when there is no context, there is little or no meaning. So, we create context but, more often than not, that context is somewhat akin to conjecture, yet it fabricates meaning. That a collection of data is not information, as Neil indicated, implies that a collection of data for which there is no relation between the pieces of data is not information. The pieces of data may represent information, yet whether or not it is information depends on the understanding of the one perceiving the data. I would also tend to say that it depends on the knowledge of the interpreter, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself, since I haven't defined knowledge. What I will say at this point is that the extent of my understanding of the collection of data is dependent on the associations I am able to discern within the collection. And, the associations I am able to discern are dependent on all the associations I have ever been able to realize in the past. Information is quite simply an understanding of the relationships between pieces of data, or between pieces of data and other information. While information entails an understanding of the relations between data, it generally does not provide a foundation for why the data is what it is, nor an indication as to how the data is likely to change over time. Information has a tendency to be relatively static in time and linear in nature. Information is a relationship between data and, quite simply, is what it is, with great dependence on context for its meaning and with little implication for the future. Beyond relation there is pattern, where pattern is more than simply a relation of relations. Pattern embodies both a consistency and completeness of relations which, to an extent, creates its own context. Pattern also serves as an Archetype with both an implied repeatability and predictability. When a pattern relation exists amidst the data and information, the pattern has the potential to represent knowledge. It only becomes knowledge, however, when one is able to realize and understand the patterns and their implications. The patterns representing knowledge have a tendency to be more self-contextualizing. That is, the pattern tends, to a great extent, to create its own context rather than being context dependent to the same extent that information is. A pattern which represents knowledge also provides, when the pattern is understood, a high level of reliability or predictability as to how the pattern will evolve over time, for patterns are seldom static. Patterns which represent knowledge have completeness to them that information simply does not contain.
Wisdom arises when one understands the foundational principles responsible for the patterns representing knowledge being what they are. And wisdom, even more so than knowledge, tends to create its own context. I have a preference for referring to these foundational principles as eternal truths, yet I find people have a tendency to be somewhat uncomfortable with this labeling. These foundational principles are universal and completely context independent. Of course, this last statement is sort of a redundant word game, for if the principle was context dependent, then it couldn't be universally true now could it? So, in summary the following associations can reasonably be made:
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Information relates to description, definition, or perspective (what, who, when, where). Knowledge comprises strategy, practice, method, or approach (how). Wisdom embodies principle, insight, moral, or archetype (why).
Now that I have categories I can get hold of, maybe I can figure out what can be managed.
A brief history of knowledge management:
KM efforts have a long history, to include on-the-job discussions, formal apprenticeship, discussion forums, corporate libraries, professional training and mentoring programs. More recently, with increased use of computers in the second half of the 20th century, specific adaptations of technologies such as knowledge bases, expert systems, knowledge repositories, group decision support systems, intranets and computer supported cooperative work have been introduced to further enhance the such efforts. In 1999, the term personal knowledge management was introduced which refers to the management of knowledge at the individual level. More recently with the advent of the Web 2.0, the concept of knowledge management has evolved towards a vision more based on people participation and emergence. This line of evolution is termed Enterprise 2.0 (McAfee 2006). However, there is still a debate (and discussions even in Wikipedia (Lakhani & McAfee 2007)) whether Enterprise 2.0 is just a fad, or if it brings something new, is the future of knowledge management (Davenport 2008) and is here to stay. An overarching theory of knowledge management has yet to emerge, perhaps because the practices associated with managing knowledge have their roots in a variety of disciplines and domains. Special thanks to Karl Wiig for supplying us with a pre-publication copy of "Knowledge Management:Where Did It Come From and Where Will It Go?" which will appear in The Journal of Expert Systems with Applications. This section draws heavily on that work but supplies only a small part of that value. A number of management theorists have contributed to the evolution of knowledge management, among them such notables as Peter Drucker, Paul Strassmann, and Peter Senge in the United States. Drucker and Strassmann have stressed the growing importance of information and explicit knowledge as organizational resources, and Senge has focused on the "learning
organization," a cultural dimension of managing knowledge. Chris Argyris, Christoper Bartlett, and Dorothy Leonard-Barton of Harvard Business School have examined various facets of managing knowledge. In fact, Leonard-Barton’s well-known case study of Chaparral Steel, a company which has had an effective knowledge management strategy in place since the mid1970s, inspired the research documented in her Wellsprings of Knowledge — Building and Sustaining Sources of Innovation (Harvard Business School Press, 1995). Everett Rogers’ work at Stanford in the diffusion of innovation and Thomas Allen’s research at MIT in information and technology transfer, both of which date from the late 1970s, have also contributed to our understanding of how knowledge is produced, used, and diffused within organizations. By the mid-1980s, the importance of knowledge (and its expression in professional competence) as a competitive asset was apparent, even though classical economic theory ignores (the value of) knowledge as an asset and most organizations still lack strategies and methods for managing it. Recognition of the growing importance of organizational knowledge was accompanied by concern over how to deal with exponential increases in the amount of available knowledge and increasingly complex products and processes. The computer technology that contributed so heavily to superabundance of information started to become part of the solution, in a variety of domains. Doug Engelbart’s Augment (for "augmenting human intelligence"), which was introduced in 1978, was an early hypertext/groupware application capable of interfacing with other applications and systems. Rob Acksyn’s and Don McCracken’s Knowledge Management System (KMS), an open distributed hypermedia tool, is another notable example and one that predates the World Wide Web by a decade. The 1980s also saw the development of systems for managing knowledge that relied on work done in artificial intelligence and expert systems, giving us such concepts as "knowledge acquisition," "knowledge engineering," "knowledge-base systems, and computer-based ontologies. The phrase "knowledge management" entered the lexicon in earnest. To provide a technological base for managing knowledge, a consortium of U.S. companies started the Initiative for Managing Knowledge Assets in 1989. Knowledge management-related articles began appearing in journals like Sloan Management Review, Organizational Science, Harvard Business Review, and others, and the first books on organizational learning and knowledge management were published (for example, Senge’s The Fifth Discipline and Sakaiya’s The Knowledge Value Revolution). By 1990, a number of management consulting firms had begun in-house knowledge management programs, and several well known U.S., European, and Japanese firms had instituted focused knowledge management programs. Knowledge management was introduced in the popular press in 1991, when Tom Stewart published "Brainpower" in Fortune magazine. Perhaps the most widely read work to date is Ikujiro Nonaka’s and Hirotaka Takeuchi’s The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (1995).
By the mid-1990s, knowledge management initiatives were flourishing, thanks in part to the Internet. The International Knowledge Management Network (IKMN), begun in Europe in 1989, went online in 1994 and was soon joined by the U.S.-based Knowledge Management Forum and other KM-related groups and publications. The number of knowledge management conferences and seminars is growing as organizations focus on managing and leveraging explicit and tacit knowledge resources to achieve competitive advantage. In 1994 the IKMN published the results of a knowledge management survey conducted among European firms, and the European Community began offering funding for KM-related projects through the ESPRIT program in 1995. Knowledge management, which appears to offer a highly desirable alternative to failed TQM and business process re-engineering initiatives, has become big business for such major international consulting firms as Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen, and Booz-Allen & Hamilton. In addition, a number of professional organizations interested in such related areas as benchmarking, best practices, risk management, and change management are exploring the relationship of knowledge management to their areas of special expertise (for example, the APQC [American Productivity and Quality Council] and ASIS [American Society for Information Science]).
A broad range of thoughts on the KM discipline exists with no unanimous agreement; approaches vary by author and school. As the discipline matures, academic debates have increased regarding both the theory and practice of KM, to include the following perspectives:
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Techno-centric with a focus on technology, ideally those that enhance knowledge sharing and creation Organizational with a focus on how an organization can be designed to facilitate knowledge processes best Ecological with a focus on the interaction of people, identity, knowledge, and environmental factors as a complex adaptive system akin to a natural ecosystem
Regardless of the school of thought, core components of KM include People, Processes, Technology (or) Culture, Structure, Technology, depending on the specific perspective. Different KM schools of thought include various lenses through which KM can be viewed and explained, to include:
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community of practice (Wenger, McDermott & Synder 2001) social network analysis intellectual capital (Bontis & Choo 2002) information theory complexity science constructivism
Different frameworks for distinguishing between knowledge exist. One proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge represents internalized knowledge that an individual may not be consciously aware of how he or she accomplishes particular tasks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, explicit knowledge represents knowledge that the individual holds consciously in mental focus, in a form that can easily be communicated to others. (Alavi & Leidner 2001). Early research suggested that a successful KM effort needs to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge in order to share it, but the same effort must also permit individuals to internalize and make personally meaningful any codified knowledge retrieved from the KM effort. Subsequent research into KM suggested that a distinction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge represented an oversimplification and that the notion of explicit knowledge is self-contradictory. Specifically, for knowledge to be made explicit, it must be translated into information (i.e., symbols outside of our heads) (Serenko & Bontis 2004). A second proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between embedded knowledge of a system outside of a human individual (e.g., an information system may have knowledge embedded into its design) and embodied knowledge representing a learned capability of a human body’s nervous and endocrine systems . A third proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between the exploratory creation of "new knowledge" (i.e., innovation) vs. the transfer or exploitation of "established knowledge" within a group, organization, or community. Collaborative environments such as communities of practice or the use of social computing tools can be used for both knowledge creation and transfer.
Knowledge may be accessed at three stages: before, during, or after KM-related activities. Different organizations have tried various knowledge capture incentives, including making content submission mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plans. Considerable controversy exists over whether incentives work or not in this field and no consensus has emerged. One strategy to KM involves actively managing knowledge (push strategy). In such an instance, individuals strive to explicitly encode their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository. Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy). In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their insights to the particular person or people needing this (Snowden 2002). Other knowledge management strategies for companies include:
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rewards (as a means of motivating for knowledge sharing) storytelling (as a means of transferring tacit knowledge) cross-project learning after action reviews knowledge mapping (a map of knowledge repositories within a company accessible by all) communities of practice best practice transfer competence management (systematic evaluation and planning of competences of individual organization members) proximity & architecture (the physical situation of employees can be either conducive or obstructive to knowledge sharing) master-apprentice relationship collaborative technologies (groupware, etc) knowledge repositories (databases, etc) measuring and reporting intellectual capital (a way of making explicit knowledge for companies) knowledge brokers (some organizational members take on responsibility for a specific "field" and act as first reference on whom to talk about a specific subject) social software (wikis, social bookmarking, blogs, etc)
A number of claims exist as to the motivations leading organizations to undertake a KM effort. Typical considerations driving a KM effort include:
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Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services Achieving shorter new product development cycles Facilitating and managing innovation and organizational learning Leveraging the expertise of people across the organization Increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals Managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work Solving intractable or wicked problems Managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals)
Debate exists whether KM is more than a passing fad, though increasing amount of research in this field may hopefully help to answer this question, as well as create consensus on what elements of KM help determine the success or failure of such efforts .
Early KM technologies included online corporate yellow pages as expertise locators and document management systems. Combined with the early development of collaborative technologies (in particular Lotus Notes), KM technologies expanded in the mid-1990s. Subsequent KM efforts leveraged semantic technologies for search and retrieval and the development of e-learning tools for communities of practice (Capozzi q 2007). More recently, development of social computing tools (such as blogs and wikis) have allowed more unstructured, self-governing or ecosystem approaches to the transfer, capture and creation of knowledge, including the development of new forms of communities, networks, or matrixed organizations. However such tools for the most part are still based on text and code, and thus represent explicit knowledge transfer. These tools face challenges in distilling meaningful reusable knowledge and ensuring that their content is transmissible through diverse channels (Andrus 2005).
This example uses a bank savings account to show how data, information, knowledge, and wisdom relate to principal, interest rate, and interest. Data: The numbers 100 or 5%, completely out of context, are just pieces of data. Interest, principal, and interest rate, out of context, are not much more than data as each has multiple meanings which are context dependent. Information: If I establish a bank savings account as the basis for context, then interest, principal, and interest rate become meaningful in that context with specific interpretations.
Principal is the amount of money, Rs.100, in the savings account. Interest rate, 5%, is the factor used by the bank to compute interest on the principal.
Knowledge: If I put Rs.100 in my savings account, and the bank pays 5% interest yearly, then at the end of one year the bank will compute the interest of Rs.5 and add it to my principal and I will have Rs.105 in the bank. This pattern represents knowledge, which, when I understand it, allows me to understand how the pattern will evolve over time and the results it will produce. In understanding the pattern, I know, and what I know is knowledge. If I deposit more money in my account, I will earn more interest, while if I withdraw money from my account, I will earn less interest.
Wisdom: Getting wisdom out of this is a bit tricky, and is, in fact, founded in systems principles. The principle is that any action which produces a result which encourages more of the same action produces an emergent characteristic called growth. And, nothing grows forever for sooner or later growth runs into limits. If one studied all the individual components of this pattern, which represents knowledge, they would never discover the emergent characteristic of growth. Only when the pattern connects, interacts, and evolves over time, does the principle exhibit the characteristic of growth. Note: If the mechanics of this diagram are unfamiliar, you can find the basis in Systems Thinking Introduction. Now, if this knowledge is valid, why doesn't everyone simply become rich by putting money in a savings account and letting it grow? The answer has to do with the fact that the pattern described above is only a small part of a more elaborate pattern which operates over time. People don't get rich because they either don't put money in a savings account in the first place, or when they do, in time, they find things they need or want more than being rich, so they withdraw money. Withdrawing money depletes the principal and subsequently the interest they earn on that principal. Getting into this any deeper is more of a systems thinking exercise than is appropriate to pursue here.
Note that the sequence data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom represents an emergent continuum. That is, although data is a discrete entity, the progression to information, to knowledge, and finally to wisdom does not occur in discrete stages of development. One progress along the continuum as one's understanding develops. Everything is relative, and one can have partial understanding of the relations that represent information, partial understanding of the patterns that represent knowledge, and partial understanding of the principles which are the foundation of wisdom. As the partial understanding stage.
Extending the Concept
We learn by connecting new information to patterns that we already understand. In doing so, we extend the patterns. So, in my effort to make sense of this continuum, I searched for something to connect it to that already made sense. And, I related it to Csikszentmihalyi's interpretation of complexity.
Csikszentmihalyi based on the degree to
provides a definition of complexity which something is simultaneously 11
differentiated and integrated. His point is that complexity evolves along a corridor and he provides some very interesting examples as to why complexity evolves. The diagram below indicates that what is more highly differentiated and integrated is more complex. While high levels of differentiation without integration promote the complicated, that which is highly integrated, without differentiation, produces mundane. And, it should be rather obvious from personal experience that we tend to avoid the complicated and are uninterested in the mundane. The complexity that exists between these two alternatives is the path we generally find most attractive. On 4/27/05 Robert Lamb commented that Csikszentmihalyi's labeling could be is bit clearer if "Differentiation" was replaced by "Many Components" and "Integration" was replaced by Highly Interconnected." Robert also commented that "Common Sense" might be another label for "Mundane." If the mundane is something we seem to avoid paying attention to then "Common Sense" might often be a very appropriate label. Thanks Robert. What I found really interesting was the view that resulted when I dropped this diagram on top of the one at the beginning of this article. It seemed that "Integrated" and "Understanding" immediately correlated to each other. There was also a real awareness that "Context Independence" related to "Differentiated." Overall, the continuum of data to wisdom seemed to correlate exactly to Csikszentmihalyi's model of evolving complexity. I now end up with a perception that wisdom is sort of simplified complexity. Knowledge Management: Bah Humbug! When I first became interested in knowledge as a concept, and then knowledge management, it was because of the connections I made between my system studies and the data, information, knowledge, and wisdom descriptions already stated. Saying that I became interested is a bit of an understatement as I'm generally either not interested or obsessed, and seldom anywhere in between. Then, after a couple months I managed to catch myself, with the help of Mike Davidson, as to the indirection I was pursuing. I managed to survive the Formula Fifties, the Sensitive Sixties, the Strategic Seventies, and the Excellent Eighties to exist in the Nanosecond Nineties and for a time I thought I was headed for the Learning Organizational Oh's of the next decade. The misdirection I was caught up in was a focus on Knowledge Management not as a means, but as an end in itself. Yes, knowledge management is important, and I'll address reasons why shortly. But knowledge management should simply be one of many cooperating means to an end, not the end in itself, unless your job turns out to be corporate knowledge management director or chief knowledge officer. I'm quite sure it will come to this, for in some ways we are predictably consistent. I associate the cause of my indirection with the many companies I have been associated with in the past. These companies had pursued TQM or reengineering, not in support of what they were trying to accomplish, but as ends in themselves because they simply didn't know what they were really trying to accomplish. And, since they didn't know what they were really trying to
accomplish, the misdirection was actually a relief, and pursued with a passion&SHY;&SHY;it just didn't get them anywhere in particular. According to Mike Davidson, and I agree with him, what's really important is:
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Mission: What are we trying to accomplish? Competition: How do we gain a competitive edge? Performance: How do we deliver the results? Change: How do we cope with change?
As such, knowledge management, and everything else for that matter, is important only to the extent that it enhances an organization's ability and capacity to deal with, and develop in, these four dimensions.
The Value of Knowledge Management
In an organizational context, data represents facts or values of results, and relations between data and other relations have the capacity to represent information. Patterns of relations of data and information and other patterns have the capacity to represent knowledge. For the representation to be of any utility it must be understood, and when understood the representation is information or knowledge to the one that understands. Yet, what is the real value of information and knowledge, and what does it mean to manage it? Without associations we have little chance of understanding anything. We understand things based on the associations we are able to discern. If someone says that sales started at Rs.100,000 per quarter and have been rising 20% per quarter for the last four quarters, I am somewhat confident that sales are now about Rs.207,000 per quarter. I am confident because I know what "rising 20% per quarter" means and I can do the math. Yet, if someone asks what sales are apt to be next quarter, I would have to say, "It depends!" I would have to say this because although I have data and information, I have no knowledge. This is a trap that many fall into, because they don't understand that data doesn't predict trends of data. What predicts trends of data is the activity that is responsible for the data. To be able to estimate the sales for next quarter, I would need information about the competition, market size, extent of market saturation, current backlog, customer satisfaction levels associated with current product delivery, current production capacity, the extent of capacity utilization, and a whole host of other things. When I was able to amass sufficient data and information to form a complete pattern that I understood, I would have knowledge, and would then be somewhat comfortable estimating the sales for next quarter. Anything less would be just fantasy! In this example what needs to be managed to create value is the data that defines past results, the data and information associated with the organization, it's market, it's customers, and it's competition, and the patterns which relate all these items to enable a reliable level of predictability of the future.What I would refer to as knowledge management would be the capture, retention, and reuse of the foundation for imparting an understanding of how all these pieces fit together and how to convey them meaningfully to some other person.
The value of Knowledge Management relates directly to the effectiveness[bel97a] with which the managed knowledge enables the members of the organization to deal with today's situations and effectively envision and create their future. Without on-demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed based on what the individual or group brings to the situation with them. With on-demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed with the sum total of everything anyone in the organization has ever learned about a situation of a similar nature. Which approach would you perceive would make a more effective organization?
Learning from failures in KM
Knowledge Management is not all about success stories. Crucial organization learning comes from failures where planed effort is put to get a well targeted outcome. IN the process of Knowledge Management we call it lessons learned. Experimenting and learning is a continuous process for a learning organization but learning from failures are important in such a process. Organizations should have a right frame work and attitude to learn from its failures. Here are some of the key points to learn from failures. Let us not discuss our failures We identify or discuss about successful implementation or developing a new concepts by any organization. But we rarely discuss our failures. Organization has to understand that every failure opens up way for improvements and triggers learning and unlearning process. Organizations pass through a failures and learning process to develop a successful product or services. Here we are discussing about success which is an out come of well targeted approach. Not a success happened by chance. Every failure is taken as a learning opportunity in the process of developing better product and services in a learning organization. But we rarely understand or discuss the process by which the new product or concept is developed. This process which is developed keeping in mind the people and its culture, is unique to the organization can't be copied by others. Discussions on failures usually not takes place because of three main reasons. One is organizational culture where failures are not taken in proper sprit. Often investigation carried out to identify the person responsible than identifying learning and short comings. Second is lack of trust among the employees. Sharing of success and failures comes if culture of mutual trust and believe exists in the organization. Blaming others for failures leaves less chance for learning. This behavior known as Defensive Reasoning is well explained in the article Teaching Smart People How to Learn by Chris Argyris in HBR May-Jun 1991. Third is availability of platform to interact. Interactions should take place in a structured process by giving the members a free and open atmosphere to explain or project the failures. Root cause analysis discussion of a maintenance group is a good example of this. Knowledge Management encourages discussion on failures in a tool popularly known as Community of Practices ( CoP). Here members of a CoP having common interest regularly meet to share their failure and success stories and help each other.
A productive failure is better than an unproductive success. We have little to learn where success is not because of targeted efforts. Where as each failure gives us insight and new way to develop or improve. After a successful completion of projects often the key peoples are shifted to other projects to transfer the knowledge gained or lessons learned from the successfully or failed ones. Active experimentation To encourage learning and to limit the damage due to failures, organizations often create prototypes or models to experiment with different approaches. This active experimentation usually does not affect the live system resulting in minimal consequence damage and provides a platform to understand cause and affect events. Here productive failures are targeted to develop new concepts and to better understand the system. Basic assumptions and standard procedures are often challenged to create new and improved process. Without a process of active experimentation organization remains in the captivity of old assumptions and practices. Learning from failure gives organizations the insight to move forward and develop new learning. Organization should not forget its past and should never try to re-invent the wheel. Organization culture, mutual trust creates an atmosphere of sharing among employees to drive the organization in its journey of Knowledge Management.
Knowledge Management Basics
Learn the basic or introduction to Knowledge Management here. Before entering to the full scope of knowledge management we must know some basic components of KM. Here we will try to understand them. Many KM initiatives has failed because they have not addressed the organizational need. Aligning the KM program to business objectives is the key to success. One must know the vary basics of KM to design a better product to match the unique knowledge needs of the organization. We will start with some basic definitions of terms used in Knowledge Management.
Barriers of knowledge sharing in a KM program
There are number of reasons why people in an organization don't share their knowledge. Some of the reasons have deep rooted to the organizational culture and some are embedded in individual believe and perceptions. A right environment created by organization with a strong commitment of all members to sharing of knowledge is the key to success of any KM program. But we know there are many road blocks in sharing of knowledge so let us try to identify them. Fish does not know much about water: Many don't understand the importance of their own knowledge. 'I have noting to share' and 'what I know is a common knowledge only' are the statements we will get from many intelligent and experienced people. In organization level also the same feeling remains that their knowledge base has noting special in it. These organizations do not know what they know. This is known as unconscious knowledge But they are the people who strongly participate in a discussion or in a community of practice meetings.
I will be in trouble if I share: Knowledge is power so why should I share my knowledge which I earned spending my time and effort? This is what stops many from sharing their knowledge. Old knowledge or old belief needs recharging and they should come forward to get others opinion about their knowledge. With frequent interaction and exchange of ideas new knowledge gets created. Here organization must create an environment where knowledge sharing is encouraged. In a culture of fear / apprehension of loosing jobs or position by sharing will not help in creating new knowledge for an organization. Knowledge is fluid and it grows when it transcend ones boundary. Organizational knowledge also gains when it reaches to its customers, suppliers or stakeholders. Their knowledge helps in improving or developing new product and services. So by hording the knowledge neither individual nor the organization gains any business value. Trust the key to sharing: Trust among the employees plays an important role in creating sharing culture. No one will share their problems or discuss any new idea when they don't have trust on others. Socialization, networking, get together are the tools by which we can bring people together and a trust can be developed. Working together, sharing a common problem, discussing improvements are the key to develop trust among each other. Organization Policy and culture: Some organization policy like rewarding individual employee rather than team does not encourage knowledge sharing. This is explained in the article 'Create colleagues, not Competitors' written by Marshall W. Van (September 05 HBR ). The study says people rewarded for individual performance shared information least; the people rewarded for team performance shared more; the people rewarded for company performance shared most. Pear to pear competition is one more reason where knowledge sharing is not encouraged. Organization has to create a conducive atmosphere for free sharing and reward or recognize all knowledge sharing efforts. I don't want to be on Focus Some time people don't want to come to the lime light by sharing their knowledge. Fear of extra responsibility, failures just prevents them from coming forward. Other barriers of knowledge sharing Internal conflicts, group politics , language problem, absence of platform ….. and some more . Please use the forum to post your views.
Benefit of Knowledge Management: Why KM
What is the benefit of implementing Knowledge Management program in any organization? What is the advantage of KM? The answer to such questions requires through understanding of KM and its expected ROI ( Return on Investment). As eighty percent of organization knowledge is Tacit Knowledge so calculating the ROI is very difficult and it may not be possible also. The impact of a successful knowledge management program can be seen in terms of new and better product developments, higher customer satisfaction, reduce in input cost, higher productivity etc. There are many organizations who achieve all these without having a formal knowledge management program. These organizations have strong culture of innovation and sharing and
must be spiraling through the knowledge creating process without even knowing the SECI model. These organizations have strong culture or sharing and innovating within their organization. A formal KM program accelerates this knowledge creating process in a structured way. For other type of organizations it facilitates the SECI model of knowledge creation. Let us know discuss the benefits of a formal KM program. Geography is history Our competitor is not far off from our place. With the global nature of today's business, companies are setting up their units and opening new marketing offices in any part of the world. The advantage of being local does not exit any more. Internet has give opportunity by providing a level playing field to all create and operate new business without having a office near the customer or consumer. These opportunities are to be tapped to enter into a new market or customer segment. At the same time one has to innovate and improve to protect the existing market with a knowledge driven business management process. Knowledge workers carry their product. An organization can become learning or innovative one because of its intellectual assets and knowledge workers. These knowledge workers are key to the success and can bring tremendous improvement and change to the organization. But these knowledge workers do not need the traditional ways of providing motivation like financial rewards. Better financial package are must but not the one which will bring result. They prefer better challenging jobs and peer respects. So the organization has to provide or facilitate better knowledge creation process to motivate knowledge workers. Ultimately the organization gets maximum ROI on its efforts. KM depends on culture not on IT Many Knowledge Management programs fail because of excessive dependence on technology. So to get the maximum out of any KM program the organization should focus on culture building. Technology just provides a platform for exchange of knowledge but it itself can't be called as knowledge management program. A strong culture of sharing and innovating is what brings success to a KM program. So through KM program a culture is developed which can't be copied by any competitor. Decision support system KM creates a platform for extensive data mining and triggers many trend analysis and business intelligence knowledge. It assists today's managers with better decision supports systems. With sharing of data and information across the organization and getting the details from customers and suppliers, managers can forecast the future trend and take better decision. Collaboration across the industry Knowledge creation process does not limit itself within the organization. Customer or supplier knowledge and its feedbacks create or trigger a new knowledge creating process. Conference and seminars brings new learning to the organization and introduces ones knowledge and expertise to others. It encourages partnership and collaboration to develop new products and services leveraging the experience of different organizations. Many academicians joins hand with technocrats to develop or improve existing or new process.
Why to re-invent the wheel One company after a through research found the solution for a problem and when thy have gone to patent office to take the patent on their name, to their surprise they found that four years back the same solution has been patented by them. Many time precious resource and time gets wasted on finding a solution which is already done before. KM provides platform in the form of community of practices, discussion boards, ask expert system, yellow pages etc to provide or build the existing successful solutions. Such tools assist knowledge worker in developing and sharing such best practices and innovation across the community. Leader in change management Through innovation and sharing KM helps in developing new products and services or improves the existing practices. Some of these innovations or an improvement sets a new trend in the market and the organization takes the lead role among the peers. Knowledge driven organization always takes a leaders role and set a new standard for others to follow. It develops a new trust among its customers and suppliers and gets the confidence of them as a innovative organization. Flexible business approach Because of the strong networking culture Knowledge Management creates it helps in developing collaborative decision making and threat analyzing capability of any organization. The organization faces new challenges successfully and became a flexible organization to adopt new business environment. New product and services development in new areas became easy as Knowledge Management encourages collaboration among customers and suppliers by frequent interactions. Organizations inters into new line of business with their knowledge and collaborations with others. Knowledge intensive not capital intensive Today's business is not located near availability of raw materials or capital. They are flowing to the areas where knowledge is available. Companies future valuation heavily depends on its future market potential based on today's knowledge creating capability. Equipment or the capital is not the key differentiator among the organizations. Capital flows to the areas where knowledge is available to create more business product and services. An Example Tata Steel decided to embark on formal KM initiative in the year 1999. The beginning was made in July’99 to place a Knowledge Management (KM) programme for the company to systematically & formally share and transfer learning concepts, best practices and other implicit knowledge. The emphasis on knowledge management was clearly demonstrated in 1999 while coining the vision statement of the company – which read “Tata Steel enters the new millennium with the confidence of learning and knowledge based organization…..” Then followed the new vision statement, co-created by the employees in 2001 (Fig. 1) which again identified ‘Manage Knowledge’ as one of the main pillars in strategy to become EVA+ by 2007. This clearly indicated the thrust Senior Management wanted on an initiative like KM.
The essence of Knowledge management is to capture the available abundant knowledge assets either in form of tacit (experience, learning from failure, thumb rules, etc.) or explicit (literature, reports, failure analysis etc.), to organize and transform the captured knowledge, and to facilitate its usage at right place and at the right time.
Business strategies related to knowledge management
As you explore other explanations of knowledge management — Bo Newman’s Knowledge Management Forum is a good starting point — you’ll detect connections with several wellknown management strategies, practices, and business issues, including
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Change management Best practices Risk management Benchmarking
A significant element of the business community also views knowledge management as a natural extension of "business process reengineering," a fact underscored by the recent announcement that John Wiley’s Business Change and Reengineering will become Knowledge and Process Management in March, 1997. There is a common thread among these and many other recent business strategies: A recognition that information and knowledge are corporate assets, and that businesses need strategies, policies, and tools to manage those assets. The need to manage knowledge seems obvious, and discussions of intellectual capital have proliferated, but few businesses have acted on that understanding. Where companies have take action — and a growing number are doing so — implementations of "knowledge management" may range from technology-driven methods of accessing, controlling, and delivering information to massive efforts to change corporate culture. Opinions about the paths, methods, and even the objectives of knowledge management abound. Some efforts focus on enhancing creativity — creating new knowledge value — while other programs emphasize leveraging existing knowledge. (See below, "Categorization of knowledge management approaches.")
KM as a field has been characterized by a great deal of confusion about its Conceptual foundations and scope. As a result, practitioners have tended to view KM interventions as those that have been given that name by themselves or others who claim to be practitioners. In this paper, we have suggested that Continuing that practice is destructive to KM as a discipline, because it prevents Coherent evaluations of Kim’s track record. Moreover we have (a) offered a Framework and set of criteria based on it for deciding whether claimed Interventions are bona fide instances of KM, and (b) illustrated the use of that Framework in critical evaluation of typical "KM" interventions, including extensive Discussion of an unambiguous case where KM has been done. This case, the well-known Partners HealthCare project, was also shown to illustrate a pattern of intervention that can serve as the basis of a long-term Systematic strategy for implementing KM in the enterprise. The strategy is risk based. It is one that can deliver concrete, incremental solutions and benefits to The enterprise by creating quality-control systems for knowledge-in-use as a Support for distributed decision making and knowledge processing. In the long Run, it can transform the enterprise into an organizational form that we call the Open Enterprise, and thereby support sustainable innovation and help solve the General problem of organizational adaptive ness and performance.
3. The Wealth of Knowledge, Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization, Thomas A. Stewart
4.Knowledge Management In Organizations by Donald Hislop 5.Improving Learning Transfer In Organizations by Ed Holton,elwood F
Holton,timothy T Baldwin
6.Managing People In The New Economy by Mohan Thite
7. Faculty members and Seniors & Friends