Knowledge Management is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Most often, generating value from such assets involves sharing them among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices. The term is used loosely to refer to a broad collection of organizational practices and approaches related to generating, capturing and disseminating know-how and other content relevant to the organization’s business.
Knowledge management can be explained as an effort by organizations to manage some or all of the knowledge within them as a resource, much as they manage real estate, inventory, and human resources. It involves the following:
- Capturing it; that is, explicitly recording the tacit knowledge within an organization.
- Cataloguing and storing it; that is, placing the information into a central area where all members of an organization who have a need to know have access to it
- Transforming it for use in other contexts (when appropriate); that is, making connections among pieces of information to create new approaches
- Disseminating it; that is, transferring knowledge to people when and where they need it.
Definitions of Knowledge Management
- University of Texas: The systematic process of finding, selecting, organizing, distilling and presenting information in a way that improves an employee’s comprehension in a specific area of interest. Knowledge management helps an organization to gain insight and understanding from its own experience. Specific knowledge management activities help focus the organization on acquiring, storing and utilizing knowledge for such things as problem solving, dynamic learning, strategic planning and decision making. It also protects intellectual assets from decay, adds to firm intelligence and provides increased flexibility.
- Computerworld (Maglitta, 1996): Knowledge management in general tries to organize and make available important know-how, wherever and whenever it’s needed. This includes processes, procedures, patents, reference works, formulas, “best practices,” forecasts and fixes. Technologically, intranets, groupware, data warehouses, networks, bulletin boards videoconferencing are key tools for storing and distributing this intelligence.
- Forbes: (Bair, 1997): Partly as a reaction to downsizing, some organizations are now trying to use technology to capture the knowledge residing in the minds of their employees so it can be easily shared across the enterprise. Knowledge management aims to capture the knowledge that employees really need in a central repository and filter out the surplus.
- R. Gregory Wenig (1998) defines KM from organizational perspective. According to his definition, Knowledge Management for the organization consists of activities focused on the organization gaining knowledge from its own experience and from the experience of others, and on the judicious application of that knowledge to fulfill the mission of the organization.
Whatever be its definition, Knowledge Management is increasingly seen, not merely as the latest management fashion, but as signaling the development of a more organic and holistic way of understanding and exploiting the role of knowledge in the processes of managing and doing work, and an authentic guide for individuals and organizations in coping with the increasingly complex and shifting environment of the modern economy.
In practice, knowledge management often encompasses identifying and mapping intellectual assets within the organization, generating new knowledge for competitive advantage within the organization, making vast amounts of corporate information accessible, sharing of best practices, and technology that enables all of the above including groupware and intranets.