Sunday, November 15, 2009

Knowledge Management & Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge management (KM) is a hot topic in many business communities. Although, the term knowledge management might suggest a rather simple definition, there are plenty of opinions on what exactly it is and how it should be used, if used at all.

However, because of the ever-increasing pace of business development, the task of effective and competitive management of organizations becomes essential, and KM, if understood and implemented properly, may be a useful tool for business transformation as well as the key to competitive advantage.

KM as the process is that, which combines technical and organizational initiatives to manage structured and unstructured knowledge in order to help the organization improve its effectiveness through improved retention and reuse of knowledge.

Knowledge defined by Davenport and Prusak (1998) - they view knowledge as an evolving mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information.

The organizational knowledge is an integral component of what organizational members remember and use, meaning that knowledge is actionable.

The most KMers when get an opportunity to speak or write they usually start doing it by highlighting the types of Knowledges - Tacit and Explicit. I personally feel that it is not that important but knowing it is important to certain extend.

Tacit knowledge is that which is understood within a knower’s mind. It consists of cognitive and technical components. Cognitive components are the mental models used by the knower that cannot be expressed directly by data or knowledge representations and also is known as unstructured knowledge.

Technical components are concrete concepts that can be expressed readily and also is known as structured knowledge. Explicit knowledge also consists of these technical components that can be expressed directly by knowledge representations.

Knowledge transfer in an organization occurs when members of an organization pass tacit and explicit knowledge to each other. Information technology (IT) assists knowledge transfer by providing knowledge repositories and methods for capturing and retrieving knowledge. The extent of the dimension of the knowledge being captured limits the effectiveness of IT in assisting KM. IT works best with knowledge that is primarily in the explicit dimension.

Four modes of Knowledge Transfer:
• Socialization is the process of sharing experiences and thereby creating tacit knowledge such as mental models and technical skills. Tacit knowledge can be obtained without using language through observation, imitation, and practice.

• Externalization is the process of articulating tacit knowledge in the form of explicit concepts, taking the shapes of metaphors, analogies, concepts, hypotheses, or models.

• Combination is the process of systemizing concepts into a knowledge system by combining different bodies of explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is transferred through media such as documents, meetings, and e-mail and/or phone conversations. Categorization of this knowledge can lead to the generation of new knowledge.

• Internalization is the process of converting explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge and is closely related to learning by doing.

For further reading - Jennex, Murray E.(Editor). Knowledge Management in Modern Organizations. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global, 2006

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