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To: Mr. Spacely Copies to: Dr.

Bajjaly
From: Matthew Landau
Date: March 7, 2007
Subject: The implications of knowledge management to information professionals

The purpose of this memorandum is to explore the implications of knowledge


management, abbreviated as KM, to information professionals. Motivating KM is the
realization that organizations can better compete if they "know what they know." KM
attempts to enhance the value of human capital by connecting what the organization
knows to what is does.

The Nature of Knowledge


Knowledge exists on the continuum ranging from data, to information, to knowledge, to
wisdom. Utility is maximized at wisdom, but managing wisdom is not applicable to most
situations because wisdom requires experience, and that can not be transferred.
Knowledge also has high utility, and it can be transferred.

Knowledge can be categorized into tacit and explicit. Tacit is what resides in the heads of
organizational members, whereas explicit is contained in the artifacts found both within
and without the organization. KM is concerned with two main objectives: knowledge
creation, and knowledge sharing. These objectives and correspond to processes as
framed in Nanaka’s Four Process Model:

Tacit to … Explicit to …
Tacit Socialization - Sharing Internalization - Creation
Explicit Externalization - Sharing Combination - Creation

Eliciting tacit knowledge is a major hurdle to effective knowledge sharing. Not only is it
intangible, and thus hard to manifest, but there are often cultural disincentives within the
organization, such as intellectual ownership concerns and traditions of silence, that
influence the amount and quality of knowledge transfer.

The Value of KM
Information professionals can manage knowledge in two contexts: within the
organization and in the organizations service to the outside world. Considering KM
within the organization, information professionals often are managers who must
accomplish things through people. Having a handle on what the people know illuminates
the path to success.

• To plan, one must understand the intellectual resources available.


• To organize, one must match talents with tasks.
• To influence, one must encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and creation.
• To control, one must utilize the techniques of KM.

Information professionals also need to manage knowledge in the context of what their
organization does. Librarians, for instance, manage knowledge on a daily basis in their
responsibilities to patrons. KM is an innovative field whose tools and techniques can
adopted to serve the public. Virtual reference services are a prime example of the
externalization of knowledge, and OPAC’s are useful in combining knowledge. Viewing
library services through the lens of KM can benefit both librarians and knowledge
managers. Indeed, often there is little distinction.

The Culture of Effective KM


Effective KM requires the participation of those with or desiring to have knowledge.
Getting around cultural disincentives to knowledge sharing and creation requires
leadership. Some actions that ameliorate the cultural disincentives include:

• Define knowledge roles that signal the value of knowledge in the organization.
• Create communities of practice to encourage communication.
• Institute policies that recognize and reward intellectual effort.
• Implement social technology such as social networking software and blogs.

The Tools of KM
The technological side of KM is booming. Almost every type of information technology
can be applied to KM. Some examples are electronic water-coolers, video conferencing,
digital whiteboards, data warehouses, information retrieval systems, etc. Every
information professional should know about these technologies because they are
changing the environment in which information resides. Understanding these
technologies as knowledge tools further specifies the environment.

Knowledge tools derive their value from what they support, as well as how they support
it. Information technology can detract from effective KM if it is poorly designed, or if it
supports invalid content. Content management is concerned with the question of “what,”
and a new avenue of research is validation technology. The following examples illustrate
how validation technology can affect KM:

• Jimmy Wales revolutionized the Internet by creating Wikipedia. It relies on


consensus to verify knowledge, and is currently of limited authority.
• Hewlett Packard created an economic market for knowledge about sales trends. It
succeeded because they created an incentive for honesty in determining the value
of specific knowledge.
• Luis von Ahn further created a game that harnessed the power of human
computation to elicit and verify tacit knowledge. His paradigm may shift KM in
novel directions.

On the Wealth of Knowledge


Information professionals need to know about KM because it affects not just their
organizations, but also the environment of their organizations. Removing the barriers to
the sharing and creation of knowledge is the goal of KM, and also the goal of many
information professionals. New behaviors, tools, and paradigms will not just remove the
barriers, but will encourage the free exchange of knowledge. With proper management,
knowledge is a resource that increases with use.
Anklam, P. (2006). Knowledge management and the social network. Inside Knowledge,
6(8). Retrieved on 3/5/2007 from http://www.kmmagazine.com/xq/asp/sid.45D056BE-
8625-11D7-9D4D-00508B44AB3A/articleid.F79B4E31-7854-4B6A-9202-
164FB18672D3/qx/display.htm

Describes techniques to examine the social paths through which knowledge


travels within an organization. Relies on survey methodology to examine these
paths. Provides an example employee network, and a breakdown of the
connection densities between various parts of the network. Fails to address
incentives for dishonest survey responses.

Fayyad, U., Piatetsky-Shapiro, G., & Smyth, P. (1996). From data mining to knowledge
discovery in databases. American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Pp. 37-54.

Hoffmann, K.L., Walter, T., & Herrmann, T. (1991). A design process for embedding
knowledge management in everyday work. Proceedings of the International ACM
SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work.

Kambil, A. (2003). You can bet on idea markets. Harvard Business School Working
Knowledge. Retrieved on 3/5/2007 from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3808.html.

Describes attempts at Hewlett Packard and British Petroleum to elicit and


aggregate critical business knowledge. Reveals striking successes in these
attempts through the use of idea markets. Lists benefits of idea markets as being
fun, eliciting honest opinions, providing a dynamic system, ease of
implementation, and allowing for informative aggregations of predictions. Does
not mention obstacles to this approach.

Koenig, M.E.D., & Srikantaiah, T.K. (2002). Business world discovers assets of
librarianship. Information Outlook Online. Retrieved on 3/5/2007 from
http://www.sla.org/content/Shop/Information/infoonline/2002/apr02/koenig.cfm?pwre
minder=yes

Lesser, E., & Everest, K. (2003). Communities of practice: making the most of
intellectual capital. IBM Institute for Business Value study.

Identifies problems in technological approaches to knowledge management.


Defines "community of practice," and lists benefits to this approach. Identifies
organizational behaviors necessary to support communities of practice. Specifies
questions to ask in assessing the effectiveness of an organizations knowledge
management processes.

Marwick, A.D. (2001) Knowledge management technology. IBM Systems Journal, 40(4).

Uses the Nonaka model of tacit and explicit knowledge processes to evaluate new
knowledge management technologies. Analyzes tacit to tacit, tacit to explicit,
explicit to explicit, and explicit to tacit processes and relevant technologies.
Claims to be comprehensive but fails to mention idea markets, folksonomy, and
other human computation methods.

McCurley, K.S., & Tomkins, A. (2004). Mining and knowledge discovery from the web.
7th International Symposium on Parallel Architectures, Algorithms and Networks,
Proceedings.

Provides an outline of the stages in the knowledge management trend: from


technological implementation, to social and human capital interaction, to content
management. Focuses on how librarians should seize the opportunity to engage in
the third stage, because that stage is primarily involved with the organization of
information. Provides only anecdotes and broad claims about these stages.
However, does analyze the enthusiasm behind the trend.

Ruggles, Rudy. (1998). The state of the notion: knowledge management in practice.
California Management Review. Vol 40, No. 3. pp 80-90.

von Ahn, L. (2005). Human computation. Unpublished masters thesis. Carnegie Mellon
University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Retrieved on 3/5/2007 from http://reports-
archive.adm.cs.cmu.edu/anon/anon/usr0/ftp/home/ftp/2005/CMU-CS-05-193.pdf