Organizations contain a wealth of knowledge.Unfortunately locating it in a usable form and in a timely manner when decisions need to be made is another matter. Yet information organization and presentation is a critical component to information access. Knowledge is increasingly recognized as the principal source of value generation and the competitive position of economies is already determined by their capacity to create value through knowledge.
In a research by Les Alberthal (1995) he puts it in a few words that Data in today’s world can be perceived as water whose volume is ever increasing yet it is an essential resource. With enough groundwork man is able to tap into this abundant reservoir and exploit newer and better ways to control raw data to become important information which in turn guides us to wisdom.
Definition of knowledge
Knowledge can best be defined as the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association. Research has shown that knowledge is the application of facts in order to solve problems that could be hindering man. Knowledge is often described as an infinite asset because it’s the only asset that increases when it’s shared. It is also described as information received and applied in the performance of activities.
It is also related to the experiences of people in organizations and society. Many scholars and researchers have forwarded the concept of knowledge a resource and an intangible asset and forms part of the so called intellectual capital of an organization. In order to fully understand how knowledge based value creation works, an understanding by management on what it is and how it relates to the competence of the firm is crucial. Most times it is information combined with understanding and capability. It lives in the minds of people and based on individual experiences, beliefs and expectation.
Scholars have often put it that knowledge provides a level repeatability, reliability or predictability that usually stems from the recognition of patterns. For example, an astute executive knows the significance of the dollar figures on his /her company’s income statement and this makes him/her capable of taking positive action. It also guides action, whereas data and information can merely inform or confuse. Knowledge is the product of individual and collective learning which is embodied in products, services and systems.
Forms of Knowledge
Knowledge within an organization includes in organization takes many forms
- The competencies and capabilities of employees
- Knowledge about customers and suppliers.
- Know-how to deliver specific processes
- Codified and protected knowledge in the form of patents, licenses, copyrights.
- Systems for leveraging the company’s innovative strength etc.
Types of Knowledge
Tacit knowledge; is most common type of knowledge. It refers to private knowledge implanted in personal experiences and involving indefinable factors such as beliefs, perception and values. It is knowledge that a person may not be deliberately responsive of such as how he/she achieves a particular job.
Such knowledge can be extremely difficult to transfer.
e.g. Explaining or describing what you know to others can be a difficult task.
Organizations themselves may have values, history, written laws, and ways of doing things which also serve as “tacit knowledge” and shape how explicit knowledge is created and used.
Explicit knowledge – this refers to tacit knowledge that has been documented. Is knowledge that the person holds knowingly in intellectual focus in a structure that can be easily exchanged to others.
Its knowledge contained within a database or in a document.
It’s knowledge that has been articulated into formal language and can be much more easily transferred among individuals.
NB: making tacit knowledge explicit is one of the key functions of a KM strategy.
Evolution of Knowledge Management
The traditional businesses aimed at realizing success based through primarily on the management of finite physical resources. The information based economy of today pursues rapid innovation, business agility and just-in time learning as a base for success.
Such organizations hope to develop and retain their” infinite assets,” the knowledge of their People. Understanding and managing both explicit and tacit knowledge in an organization is likely to achieve best results. It’s also worth noting that much knowledge is communicated informally as well as formally in organizational environments. Hence it’s equally important to provide an environment in which causal conversations are encouraged as well as communications in meetings. Organizational environment is a complex one and the willingness to share knowledge may vary from individual to individual.
Barriers to Knowledge Management
There could be political, economic or even social barriers to sharing knowledge, for instance in some cases, critical knowledge to resolve a particular problem maybe stored in only one of the many databases and that databases maybe unknown to the decision- makers, or the search tools maybe inadequate to extract the needed knowledge from it. In other cases, needed knowledge maybe possessed by only one or a few individuals who may or may not be involved in the immediate decision – making process.
Many organizations may have difficulties in identifying the net contributors of knowledge and its not any wonder that such people find themselves victims of de-layering , headcount reductions and ageism – The is because in most cases, the superstar creators of new knowledge are not necessary the silver tongued or the best presenters. At times, even when involved, these individuals, for personal or professional reasons may not be willing to share their knowledge.
- In such cases, important knowledge in organizations remains lost or is discovered only after decisions are made.
- When this potential knowledge (tacit knowledge) remains unused, it degrades the decision process, reduces decision quality and impairs organizational effectiveness. Also worth noting is the fact that modern organizations rely on inventiveness and innovation to survive and prosper.
This is means that they rely on their employees’ knowledge, skills and ideas (human capital) to create new services and products)
Often, innovation and inventive thinking require collaboration and the sharing of information and a work environment that encourages both activities on a formal and informal level- such eventually create communities of practice.
Impact of Knowledge Management
To help diminish the impact of poor use of knowledge within organizational the field of “knowledge management” (KM) has emerged. It is a field that focuses specifically on understanding and structuring the organization so that the knowledge contained within it can be exploited.
- The focus of KM is on people.
- Blair (2002) quoted by Robin (2004) emphasizes that, Knowledge Management is the organization and support of skills and also the management of specialized team members rather than the organizations of repositories of information. Managing people who have knowledge requires that the managers have the required skills to exploit the information from workers so as to promote the company and develop innovations both from within and without the organization. One needs to identify the persons able to propagate the culture of sharing of information to others.
Overall, KM focuses on sharing information and is concerned with planning, capturing organizing, interconnecting, and providing access to organizational knowledge through both intellectual and information technologies for the continuous improvement of the organization.
KM focuses on the human aspect of the organization as much as the structural and technological aspects.
Objectives of Knowledge Management
KM efforts are responsible and involved in managerial purposes such as:
- Better performance from staff
- Competitive benefits as staff are willing to work hard
- distribution of information and the objectives studied
- Incorporation and nonstop development of the business.
(Davenport, 1997) also identifies four extra objectives to KM which are creation of knowledge repositories, progressing access to knowledge, develop the knowledge environment and management of information as asset s.
From the above objectives, it becomes very clear that the concerns for KM relate to two contexts
- Concerns with managing the individuals who have knowledge
- Concerns with managing the knowledge itself
Why Undertake KM Efforts
A number of claims exist as to the motivation leading organizations to undertake a KM effort
Typical considerations include:
- Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services
- Achieving shorter new product development cycles.
- Facilitating and managing innovation and organization learning.
- Leveraging the expertise of people across the organization helps group and individual to share valuable organizational insights.
- Increasing network connectively between internal and external individuals.
Intractable a wicked problems
- Managing the intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how by key individuals).
- Reinvention of the wheel is not necessary per setrim down training time for new workers
- Assisting firms to adapt to changing situations and markets.
- Market places are increasingly competitive and the ratio of innovation is rising.
- Decrease in recruitment forms a need to substitute unofficial knowledge with official techniques.
- Early departure of staff from the organization and their escalating mobility leads to the organization losing knowledge.
Knowledge Management relays directly to the efficiency of how managed knowledge facilitates the team player or member of the group to deal with modern state of affairs and successfully foresee and create their outlook. With no claimed access to administered knowledge, every circumstance is dealt with support on what the person or crowd of members convey this state with them. With on –demand right to use supervised knowledge, every circumstance is dealt with the summation of all and anyone in the organization has taken time to study from the state of affairs of a same nature.
In his studies, (Wells, 1940) concluded the volume of knowledge is ever increasing in both wealth and size. It is however strewn all over the world in a disorganized manner despite its relevance in assisting s in solving all challenges that we may be facing during our age. He went on to further emphasize that the world needs repository where ideas are collected, arranged, summarized, absorbed, simplified and compared.
List of References
Alberthal, L. (1995) Knowledge Management in the 21st Century. London, Prentice- Hall.
Blair, P. (2002) Organizational Management. California, Sprint Co.
Davenport, B. (1997) Knowledge Management from an Evolutionary View. CRC, Press.
Robin, C. (2004) Knowledge Management. New York, CRC Press.
Wells, H. (1940) Theories of Knowledge Management. New York, Springer.