Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Is Knowledge Management?

Benefits of Knowledge Management

Experts get better at what they do by learning more. Some people can only learn by trying to do things themselves, but most people learn a lot from each other. When people share expertise fully and openly, when they write essays, for example, the sum is greater than the parts. Quantum leaps in knowledge can be generated when experts collaborate. Then there is simple efficiency. Time and other resources are wasted every time employees have to learn something through trial and error, working in isolation. The pace of change and innovation is so great that one person cannot do it all. When experts collaborate, progress can be made much faster than any one employee working alone. Speed is the essence today – speed of execution as well as that of innovation.

knowledge management

Problems with Knowledge Management

Some experts are not that great at collaboration. They like to figure things out for themselves and can’t be bothered with passing on their knowledge to others. Many such talented people also hate the bureaucracy associated with having to document everything they do. Then there is the old saying “knowledge is power.” Just as knowledge gives organizations a competitive advantage, individual knowledge workers also know that the uniqueness of their expertise enhances their marketability.
There is also the fact that pooled knowledge may be better for efficient execution than for innovation. For example, if you want to know how to make a sale to a client in a foreign country, it is wise to find out what your colleagues did that worked for them. But innovation often occurs through live collaboration rather than the accessing of stored knowledge. Brainstorming does not necessarily tap into existing knowledge. Rather, it creates new insights out of nowhere. Similarly, many of the greatest discoveries in science and technology happened virtually by accident. Someone experiments by trying out solutions on a trial and error basis to see what emerges. Often, the unexpected results are the more interesting ones. Knowledge management has a mechanistic ring to it that could stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of employees who work best in a very experimental way.
There is also the common organizational culture of functional silos where managers are territorial and want to keep the power of their department’s expertise to themselves. Finally, knowledge becomes obsolete so fast that it hardly seems worth the effort to capture it. Knowledge management is still worth doing, however, despite these and other obstacles. Ideally, it makes less sense to document everything an organization knows than to focus strategically on the specific areas where knowledge adds the most critical value, where it offers the greatest competitive advantage.
How to Manage Knowledge
Several knowledge management initiatives have failed for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are too centrally driven. They are less interesting to potential users if they feel no ownership for them. Communities of practice are one way around this problem. Rather than centralize all knowledge, specific user groups or types of experts are formed into specialized networks. After effectively localizing the management of knowledge, the next step is to involve the users in designing a knowledge sharing process that they can sign up to and will use. This raises the question of the fundamental purpose of knowledge management. Is it to store knowledge for all employees to access or is it more about sharing and collaborating in real time?
Our educational system stuffs knowledge into the heads of students that it thinks will be useful to them several years later. Often, most of this knowledge is lost because students don’t feel a need for it at the time. It has no application in the here and now for them. A knowledge management system based on this philosophy is bound to fail. Organizations that foster live collaboration during an actual project are more likely to succeed. On the downside, the relevant expertise may not be captured for later use, but the organization achieves its most important objective – to exponentially transform the expertise of multiple experts into tangible competitive advantage.

Author bio: Necole Hardison, writer and editor
Necole graduated Harvard Business School and studied many executive education programs. She is a business strategic expert by day and essay writing fanatic by night, writing all sorts of great content. Necole already helped a lot of people with an essay writing and does not plan to dwell on it.

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