What exactly is Knowledge Management?

July 14, 2006

I know I should know. I read the web sites, I try and make sense out of what it is they’re talking about but I’m missing something fundamental here – I simply haven’t a clue what knowledge management is, why people are talking about it so much and what it looks like in real life. This feels like my first year Masters’ course where I struggled with social constructionism until the penny dropped and realised that SC isn’t any fixed thing – it’s merely a way of looking at everything else. Is KM similar? I can’t seem to find an introduction to KM – it’s as if everyone is talking a secret code that I can’t crack. What bit of knowledge do I need to manage or find in order to understand what it’s all about?

11 People reacted on this

  1. I can tell you in my consultant world, KM is all about not losing the older worker’s wisdom when they retire (which for our companies is a rapidly approaching, tsunami-like event). While you might call that knowledge transfer, loosely put we are seeing companies scramble to find ways to core dump the older worker’s experiences, whether formally through some documented path or by mentoring. There seems to be more focus (panic?) on capturing backwards rather than plans to go forward with some sort of program that captures the collective knowledge ahead. Don’t know if that helps, but that’s how KM is talked up around the people I work with.

  2. mmm that sounds like a combination of knowledge transfer and succession planning … For the life of me I can’t work out what the KM industry is about..I read these websites and it just looks like they’re portals for what people are doing anyway…maybe I don’t have enough knowledge to be managed!

  3. Knowledge management belongs to the management discipline. It is a comprehensive organisational routine, in which the organisation integrate Organisational culture of continuous learning, business processes, and supporting infrastructures such as technology – to maximize the organisational capability to use existing knowledge as well as creating new knowledge that will support the organisational vision and mission.

  4. Thanks for that Yigal – what might that look like in a business context? Can you give me an example? I ask because I’m simply not sure what the difference between what you’re talking about is and regular feedback, succession planning, organisational learning interventions might be?

  5. Annette,
    I suspect Yigal is having a bit of fun. That collection of words surely is nonsense, and cannot be a serious offering. You remember the automatic buzz word generator?
    In case I´m wrong, I better say that if Yigal´s explanation is meant to enlighten, “knowledge managment” has no sustainable future except as yet another term that became fashionable for a day.
    I´ve found Dave Gurteen´s newsletter useful on this topic. Just Google him and you´ll come across it.

  6. Omani – I don’t think he is having a bit of fun – or if he is then he’s accurately portraying the kind of language I come across all the time about KM. I’ve read David Gurteen’s site and I’m still no wiser. I’m glad people meet up in “knowledge cafes” to drink lattes and discuss KM but I’m still absolutely confounded by what all of this is or looks like…

  7. Annette,
    You have sent me back to the drawing board on this. I’ve decided to ask myself your question.
    Found this:
    It’s not an answer but a collection of stories about what some knowledge management people have tried to persuade senior managers of the value of knowledge mgt to their business.
    Anything that has to be spoken of in language like Yigal’s is suspect in my eyes. This little discussion is a good challenge.

  8. Hi Paul – thanks for doing that leg work…I read a lot of that link and well…I’m less sceptical than I was but not much…aren’t you supposed to be on a beach somewhere??

Comments are closed.