Knowledge Management: Key Issues

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Knowledge and Information

Knowledge is a systematic reliable representation of objects and phenomena of reality. Jones and Mahon (2018) claim that “knowledge can be defined as what information, understanding or skill we gain from either experience or education” (p. 3). It is used by people to rationally organize their activities and solve emerging problems. Information is data about concepts, facts, events, etc., in the transmission and acceptance of which people or special devices can participate. According to Durnali (2019), however, “information is a written, verbal, and visual message and it is way more contentful than data” (p. 144).

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The root factor that allows identifying the difference between knowledge and information is that knowledge is acquired only through subjective comprehension. Information is independent and does not always reach the stage of awareness. In the cognitive process, knowledge and information are at different levels. First comes the perception of information provided by a certain source: a book, the Internet, a teacher, etc.

After the comprehension stage, the information is resulting in knowledge. Having knowledge means being able to play the role of a new source of information. Thus, only information can be transmitted and received, knowledge cannot be transmitted. In order to become the owner of knowledge, it is necessary to perceive the primary information and pass it through your own consciousness. For example, a mathematics teacher has knowledge of his subject area. While explaining to the class the way to solve the problem, he is not directly transmitting knowledge, but he is a source of information. The students will be able to form knowledge only when they not only listen to the teacher but also understand and realize what he is trying to convey to them.

Considering the difference between knowledge and information, it should be noted that there can be no excess of knowledge. After all, a person seeks to comprehend only what is really important and necessary for him. In the context of knowledge management (KM), knowledge can be described as “information with value added” (Flor, 2018). Information can come in abundance, people often feel a glut of it. Out of the total amount of information people have for the acquisition of knowledge, only a small part is used to any significant effect. That knowledge is the criterion of human education. It is not enough just to get acquainted with the information, it is necessary to do considerable mental work.

At the moment, the most significant change in the external environment of higher education is the development of knowledge economics. Unger (2019) describes knowledge economics as an “accumulation of capital, technology, technology-relevant capabilities, and science in the conduct of productive activity” (p. 20). The knowledge economics is the key factor for the development of the knowledge concentrated in human capital and the information environment in which this capital is used. This economy’s growth and competitiveness are ensured by the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge with the help of high-tech products and services.

Brinkley (2006) stresses how important it is to define and measure the concept of the knowledge economics. In his article, Brinkley (2006) writes that “the impact of the knowledge economy […] would remain more a matter of assertion and intuition rather than demonstrable proof based on hard facts” (p. 12). It is crucial to acknowledge the features and roles of the knowledge economics, as it is one of the most promising and productive types of development.

Knowledge Management

Modern civilization has offered the world an information society and, along with it, a knowledge-based economy. In the context of globalization, competition grows in markets and technologies develop rapidly. Humans and the knowledge they possess are increasingly becoming the main resources for the development of companies, intellectual capital and growing professional competence of personnel. Knowledge is one of the most important assets of a company.

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Knowledge management is a discipline that provides an integrated approach to the creation, collection, organization, and use of enterprise information resources and access to them. These resources include structured databases, textual information, and, most importantly, employees’ implicit knowledge. Learning to manage knowledge means plunging into the world of concepts, categories, ratings, methods, procedures, options, technologies, structures.

Knowledge is not born by itself and it should work and be profitable for the organization. Geisler and Wickramasinghe (2015) describe KM as “the ability to gain knowledge from its own experience and for the experience of others and to judiciously apply that knowledge” (p. 4). In order to understand the knowledge management system, it is necessary to get familiar with the classification of knowledge: it is divided into explicit, potentially explicit and implicit knowledge.

Explicit knowledge is information or knowledge recorded on material carriers. Potentially explicit knowledge is information or knowledge which has not yet been recorded in material form, but which can be converted into an explicit form. Finally, implicit knowledge is information or knowledge that is difficult to record on material carriers. The knowledge management system consists of information and data that is available to all members of the organization through special portals and content management systems. A content management system is the most obvious and operational component of a knowledge management system. However, there are three more very important components:

  1. Lessons learned base. The knowledge base that is gained and acquired in the course of operations, but not documented as part of standard procedures, recorded and shared. In the context of knowledge management, the emphasis is usually placed on collecting data personally from participants in the activity, that is, turning implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
  2. Expertise location. Since knowledge is stored in the heads of specialists, then the best way to achieve this knowledge is to talk to these specialists. The purpose of expertise location is obvious: the search for employees of the organization who have knowledge in a particular area.
  3. Communities of practice (CoPs). Communities of practice are groups of people with similar interests who come together (in real life or virtually) to share experiences, discuss problems and opportunities, and talk about best practices and lessons learned. Communities of specialists emphasize the social nature of learning in organizations.

Haggle and Kingston (2003) conclude that “organisations are told that they will not survive in the modern Knowledge Era unless they have a strategy for managing and leveraging value from their intellectual assets” (p. 1). Capezzuoli and Jolly (2019) recommend that they reassert their purpose and evolve their practices from that point, with effective indicators emerging naturally. Therefore, it is a necessity for every organization that applies the knowledge economy in their business to choose a certain strategy and approach. There are such strategies as:

  • Nonaka & Takeuchi’s Matrix of Knowledge Types and Boisot’s ISpace Model, which use the classification by knowledge;
  • APQC International Benchmarking Clearinghouse Study and Mckinsey & Company, which implies the classification by business process;
  • Treacy & Wiersema’s Value Disciplines, which focus on the classification by end results.

Knowledge Management for Development

There is a separate type of KM that is based on knowledge economics and knowledge science called Knowledge Management for Development (KM4D). Khosrow-Pour (2018), while comparing Knowledge Management and KM4D, says that “KM4D also considers intellectual capital as a manageable asset but it is leveraged not to increase profit but to further the development agenda” (p. 5079).

The development sector of the KM4D, as Koohang, Harman, and Britz (2008) note, “comprises a broad range of actors, both organizational and individual, working to achieve development which is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)” (p. 76). On the basis of twenty-five years of KM4D practice among international development agencies, conventional KM and KM4D are differentiated in terms of objective; considerations; thrust; usage levels; system features and applications; and the content of the system. In KM4D, the parameters for sharing and reusing knowledge extend beyond the organization to all sectoral stakeholders.

The main idea of conventional KM is the sharing of internal knowledge, and as for KM4D it is the sharing of external knowledge. As such, it has to process much higher amounts of information, and Flor (2002) recommends the usage of particular digital tools to help store and process the data. KM4D systems also go beyond traditional messaging and collaboration, file sharing, content management and search functionality, but extend to e-learning.

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References

Brinkley, I. (2006). Defining the knowledge economy. The Work Foundation.

Capezzuoli, S. and Jolly, R. (2019). Measuring knowledge management: evidence essentials in purpose-driven organizations. Knowledge Management for Development Journal. Web.

Durnali, M. (2019). Utilizing technology, knowledge, and smart systems in educational administration and leadership. IGI Global.

Flor, A. G. (2018). Knowledge management for development (KM4D) (2nd ed.). IGI Global.

Geisler, E., & Wickramasinghe, N. (2015). Principles of knowledge management: Theory, practice, and cases. Routledge.

Flor, A. G. (ed.). (2002). Digital tools for process documentation: Capturing and mining best practices and lessons learned. The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.

Haggle, K., & Kingston, J. (2003). Choosing your knowledge management strategy. Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, 4. Web.

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Jones, N. B., & Mahon, J. F. (2018). Knowledge transfer and innovation. Routledge.

Khorsow-Pour, M. (2018). Advanced methodologies and technologies in library science, information management, and scholarly inquiry. IGI Global.

Koohang, A., Harman, K., & Britz, J. (2008). Knowledge management: Research and application. Informing Science Press.

Unger, R. M. (2019). The knowledge economy. Verso.

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