Knowledge Management

“Information is not knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Knowledge management is topic that seems to be gaining more and more ground in recent years as we can tell by the amount of discussion it garners on social networking sites such as LinkedIn. There also seems to be an increase in careers in this area according to the article by Southon, Todd and Seneque. However, there does seem to be a level of confusion as to what knowledge management actually is and it can be mistaken for information management. I found the definition by Mayo in the case study the most helpful, “The management of the information, knowledge and experience available to an organisation – its creation, capture, storage, availability and utilisation – in order that organisational activities build on what is already known and extend it further.”  In fact I think the term “knowledge management” may be problematic and that “knowledge sharing” might be an easier concept for people to understand. Although knowledge management involves IT and information, it is not a one-off project in IT or about building a repository. Basically it is about taking the human assets of a company, the brains, skills and experience and turning them into systems, processes, culture and documented experience and allowing for employee communication. Information is a facet of knowledge.

Having worked in a company which used an intranet for communication and knowledge sharing I can see that companies like KPMG, HP, Microsoft and Ford would benefit from this idea. Intranets and databases and communication devices for companies to share information are invaluable. As we can see from some of the literature and the case study, if knowledge resides solely in a person’s head then it is very problematic if they leave a company or retire and the knowledge is lost. This includes ways of doing things, where things are, relationships with customers/clients. A organisational culture that encourages knowledge sharing and rewards it is the way forward as it allows for discussions, more effective communication, more effective processes and more effective time management. As we saw from the case study it is important that management use the resources and encourage others to do so and that helps in the adoption of a knowledge sharing culture.

We saw from the literature about the three organisations that knowledge management occurred in different ways but was equally important to each organisation. It was about making the companies less individual-based and more team focused. Importantly, this had to start at management level as the decision making levels are what affects knowledge. I also thought it was very interesting that in the “Working with Knowledge” article there was a case made for the information and knowledge professionals to participate as knowledge partners which meant that they shared or documented their processes of finding resources also. Finally, I thought that the distinctions in this article between tacit, explicit and cultural knowledge was very helpful. Tacit knowledge is probably the hardest to manage as it lives inside people. I know from experience there were things I did in my previous job that I could not fully explain to people but would instead have to allow them to watch what I was doing and copy. There was also ways of doing things that I developed to allow me to do my job quicker. It is this type of knowledge that you may not even be aware of that is probably the most essential to keep companies going and for this reason I think the growth of knowledge management is a huge step forward for most organisations in becoming more efficient and productive.

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