The rapid increase in knowledge creation over the years has led to the generation of an endless pool of knowledge. The problem now is organizing this knowledge to make it easily accessible, and that’s where knowledge management comes in.
To understand the processes of knowledge management, we must take a close look at different types of knowledge.
Types of Knowledge
There are three types of knowledge:
- Explicit Knowledge – We acquire knowledge in different ways and from various sources. The most common source of knowledge is formal education. This knowledge comes from educational institutions, where it is past to individuals through teaching, and it is referred to as explicit knowledge.
- Implicit Knowledge – At the end of their studies, they get a job in an organization where they begin to apply their knowledge. At this point, the knowledge transforms from explicit or theoretical knowledge to implicit or applied knowledge.
- Tacit Knowledge – As part of an organization, the individual begins to acquire new knowledge. This new knowledge is acquired through experience, called tacit or intuitive knowledge. It’s not easily transferred; instead, it’s understood by working alongside someone more experienced in a field.
This means that the employees are the real asset to any organization. While it is impossible to retain all people, businesses can utilize knowledge management to retain the knowledge within the organization.
Knowledge Management Processes
Knowledge management can be represented in four major processes:
Here, it’s important to identify the knowledge that is needed and then where it can be acquired. This knowledge could come from external sources like customers and experts or internal sources like the organization’s employees.
For example, if an organization realizes its sales are decreasing over time, an external expert is invited to assess the situation. They can identify the cause and propose a solution.
Alternatively, a company could reach out to its existing clients and ask for feedback. This could be a good source of valuable information to understand their needs.
However, the most valuable source of knowledge will be found in the minds of the company. One way of acquiring this knowledge is through interviews or debrief sessions with key employees.
Storage and Organization
Once acquired, the knowledge can be stored in databases or management platforms. At this stage, the organization has one goal in mind, and that is to preserve the knowledge it has acquired. By now, most of the acquired knowledge should have been converted into a shareable format.
The storage is a central knowledge repository with an output and an input interface. The output interface allows stored knowledge to be accessed by anyone who needs it. The input interface allows the organization to easily feed new knowledge into the system to improve it over time.
After acquiring and storing their knowledge, the next step is to set up appropriate channels through which knowledge flows within the organization.
The transfer of knowledge in and out of the system plays a central role in the distribution stage of knowledge management. Like every other stage of knowledge management, the process of knowledge distribution cannot be overlooked. This is because, unlike the storage phase, knowledge distribution goes beyond just having the best technology.
No matter how effective the knowledge acquisition phase has been, there are bound to be knowledge gaps that occurred during the conversion of tacit or implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
This occurs because it’s difficult to retrieve these types of knowledge from the minds of those who possess it. To ensure that knowledge is distributed effectively, an organization must cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture amongst employees.
This culture will improve the productivity of each team and the entire organization by encouraging the flow of knowledge, skill, and experience.
Knowledge Management Tools
There are various tools that organizations can use to take advantage of knowledge management. They include:
- Document management systems – They provide central storage for digital format documents like images and PDFs. Utilizing these systems promotes employee workflows by enhancing the quick retrieval of information.
- Intranets – These are private networks that are exclusive to an organization. They enable sharing of tools and processes and can be a powerful collaboration tool in knowledge distribution.
- Content Management Systems (CMS) – Organizations can use CMS systems to manage web content where end users can manage or publish specific content. They are similar to document management systems, although they can support audio and video.
- Data warehouses – They aggregate data from various sources into single central, refined data stores. This data is used to support data analysis, mining, AI, and machine learning. Data can be extracted from these warehouses to enable companies to draw valuable insights into developing strategies and data-driven decisions.
Data is the new currency in the 21st century. Businesses of all sizes can harness the immense benefits of data through knowledge management and position themselves better to take advantage of their internal knowledge.