Sunday, October 12, 2008

Knowledge Management and Value of Web 2.0

Knowledge Management is a management discipline that continues to evolve in theory and practice.

In simple terms, KM is best defined as the body of understanding and skills that is mentally constructed by people. Knowledge is increased through interaction with information (typically generated from other people).

There are typically three major types of knowledge:

1.) Embodied or tactit or implicit knowledge: Undocumented information in human beings such as intuition, empathy, experience know-how, mental models, artifcacts, values, and norms that enables us to make decisions
2.) Represented knowledge often called expicit or codified, or tangible knowledge: This is knowledge that is mostly contained in data, and documented information that is rightly the basis for such decision-making.
3.) Embedded knowledge: is the knowledge that exists in processes, products, rules and procedures - also called explicit, or codified or tangible knowledge.

While the term, knowledge management is popular, there are many interpretations and more importantly - many misunderstandings of what KM means. KM is not the mechanical organization of knowledge; nor is KM solely about content. KM is a system and a process, and not just about content. It is also about culture as culture creates the context for knowledge to effectively be cultivated and to flow effectively.

I look at KM as a multi-disciplinary approach to achieving an organization's objectives, by making the best use of knowledge - it focuses on processes such as acquiring, creating and sharing knowledge, and the cultural and technical foundations that support them. The aim of KM is to align knowledge processes with organizational objectives.

The reasons why organizations commit to KM include:
1.) To improve the quality of available knowledge within the enterprise and share it across operating units;
2.) To improve responses to competitive forces;
3.) To reduce or control costs;
4.) To accelerate the rates of innovation within an enterprise
5.) To reduce the loss of intellectual assets caused by turnover in employees.

The value that Web 2.0 and Social Mediated Technologies provide to KM programs is that they create an enabling collaborating infrastructure to help people, communities and social networks to adaptively generate knowledge in real time.

These adapative free-flowing toolkits allow people to self-declare their interests and for the natural organic process of interest swarming to take place. In other words, people gravitate to the topics, themes, discussions of most interest to them, as well as being able to search for profiles, or interest areas that specifically map to an individuals' interest. Web 2.0 provides for a more open, transparent and organic form of communication which accelerates organizations ability to support and further achieve the KM organizational goals summarized above.

Sometimes I hear people say knowledge management is dead - which only reaffirms how misinformed people are in understanding the science of knowledge diffusion theory which is rooted in cultural anthropology which deeply looks at how knowledge is formed and flows.

Knowledge is what allows us to innovate and grow, and without it's capabilities and generative power - we would not evolve as a human species. Web 2.0 and Social mediated approaches are simply toolkits that accelerate our ability to share knowledge and create communities of interest relevant to our goals, and needs.


Atul said...

Quite an interesting post. You have put things quite well. I agree with you in large parts, the one thing i wanted to mention here is that probably Knowledge MANAGEMENT may not even be the right term.

I believe Knowledge is what helps us make sense of the world, and as such this cannot be managed.

Knowledge Management also assumes a distinction between the knower and the known, which, to my mind, exists only in the mind, and hence, is only to a limited extent.

Dr. Cindy Gordon said...

Thanks for your comments. In business, intellectual assets of the firm are formed from knowledge generation capabilities. They become assets and risks to the effective and efficient running of an enterprise. Some knowledge can easily be managed and codified. Other knowledge types are more organic and free flowing. It is a mistake to not believe that some knowledge cannot be managed.

Dr. Cindy Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bookmark and Share