The knowledge management definition: the collection of knowledge throughout an organization that is then used to improve that organization’s performance and competitive advantage through sharing, learning, and innovating.
Considered an expert system, companies will often use the combination of knowledge management systems and software to assist in more efficient progress of processes and product. The system is a business’s approach to knowledge management whereas the software is the tool used to assist in that approach.
Knowledge management systems and software
Types of knowledge management systems are often understood as synonyms of knowledge management but are really just different versions of it. The most common types are:
- Content management systems: A focused knowledge management system that helps writers and designers simply create, edit, publish, and distribute content. The content management process is a more focused type of knowledge management.
- Information management system: This is a general term for knowledge management software that’s used to record and relay messages and processing in an organization.
- Business intelligence system: A system in which large amounts of an organization’s raw data is organized and analyzed to assist in the knowledge management process.
Knowledge management in theory and practice
Knowledge management, in theory, seems simple. You might think, “Systems and software? I don’t need that! All it takes is good communication and a few folders!”
In fact, it would be a bit ironic to say that. Knowledge management systems and software exist to more easily communicate, organize, share, and store information. The importance of km processes in practice is much more complicated, but we’ll take it slow and start with the knowledge management cycle.
Knowledge management cycle
The knowledge management cycle is broken up into three sections: people, manage and apply. Then, these sections consist of two factors. People are essential for the entire process, but particularly for the creation and learning of information. The creation of information begins the cycle, whereas learning the information comes in as the last part of the cycle.
For example, everyone at Lessonly by Seismic is a creator and learner. Some departments use lessons to create informative information to share with the rest of the company. Then, if someone from another department has an idea, they can suggest it to the department, and the department can then implement it. This is an extremely small example. Most companies do this, but on a significantly larger scale.
Acquiring and organizing information is the management part, and that requires systems and software to help store and organize every piece of information.
Applying information consists of sharing and learning with the people at your organization. As people share and discuss these insights, it leads to further improvements and innovations; the knowledge management cycle begins again with creation.
Knowledge management models
Though the knowledge management cycle seems pretty fluid, there are different approaches to it. Before we get into specific models, it’s important to note that there are two types of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in experience and trials. Tacit knowledge is not concise or quantitative but relies on emotions and hunches. Tacit knowledge is helpful in the process of elimination.
Explicit knowledge is knowledge that has been proven over and over in discussions and in numbers. It’s considered scientifically sound. This kind of knowledge is easily shared and considered extremely accurate. Explicit knowledge is tangible.
Below are a few of our favorite knowledge management models (approaches):
Socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization. This model helps understand the nature of knowledge and relies heavily on the use of tacit knowledge.
- Socialization rhetorically analyzes and takes into account the knowledge of how the people in a company communicate in a given environment
- Externalization is taking the tacit knowledge from socialization and relating it to numbers to find and share trends.
- Combination uses the explicit knowledge to create prototypes. Internalization is the linking of both types of knowledge to innovate.
The Capability Maturity Model
This model is often adopted for the knowledge management process. It consists of levels of understanding:
- Level 1: Chaos – Processes at this stage are a bit sporadic. They’re undocumented, and the results are unpredictable.
- Level 2: Repetition – Processes on this stage are consistent, yet can be monotonous and resistant to innovation.
- Level 3: Defined: This level takes all processes and integrates them with each other. It creates fluidity within a department and simultaneously throughout an organization.
- Level 4: Process Management – Processes at this level collect data from a timeline of processes and trials to then improve upon them.
- Level 5: Trial – The final level is taking the sound, consistency of tacit and explicit knowledge and developing new ideas with it.
The Business Intelligence Model
This model is often used in the knowledge management business process, and its data to then find practices and technologies to further its commercial context. The business intelligence process comes into play by:
- Learning interdepartmental perception and performance.
- Finding advanced technology to collect data in the most efficient manner
- Facilitate communication between departments
This model helps us understand what information is available and how we are giving and receiving it. The Johari Window is made up of four quadrants: arena, blind spot, facade, and unknown. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?
- Arena – Mutually known information between the public and the company. What is mutually known helps with advancements within a company.
- Blind-spot – What is unknown to a company, but is public knowledge. It just has yet to be discovered.
- Facade – Inside information. It’s unknown to the public, or to certain facets of a company, but is known by someone and has yet to be shared
- Unknown – Information that is completely out of a company’s knowledge and control.
Benefits of knowledge management
You might still be asking, What is knowledge management and why is it important? Let’s hone in on that. The benefits of knowledge management are various. In short, knowledge management assists with creating an effective communication process within a company. In the long run, several factors come into play. Here are just some of the benefits of knowledge management.
- Employees have easy access to information: Whether it’s corporate knowledge management or company-wide knowledge management, sharing information with employees is pertinent for progress. With access to information, employees become more open to implementing new ideas—some of which could be their own.
- Previously recorded efforts can be reused, repurposed, or expanded upon. With new employees filing in and roles changing, processes, efforts, and accomplishments can be forgotten. To have those things recorded, a team can see where gaps and opportunities exist.
- As information accumulates, recognized patterns and successes reduce costs from new efforts. Simply, when you learn what works and what doesn’t, you reduce costs on what doesn’t.
- Improves products and productivity. Time saved is money saved. With new information and insights, less time is spent organizing and more time is spent doing.
- Creates reference material for the repetition of the business information process.
Knowing the benefits of knowledge management will help anyone in a KM role with direction.
The most important example of knowledge management
Knowledge management is used in a wide variety of industries for business intelligence, content management, and information management processes — with the military being the most popular example. The up-and-coming industry is knowledge management in the healthcare industry.
What has dwindled: Healthcare knowledge management issues. Advances and successes in knowledge management for healthcare have created advances and successes in healthcare.
Surprisingly, the healthcare industry was one of the last industries to adopt strategies for a knowledge base system or knowledge transfer process, but that has dramatically changed in the last few years. Knowledge management efforts have since assisted in the controlling and innovating use of data. That means more lives are being saved with health knowledge management!
Knowledge management purpose and product
Knowledge management in purpose is intended to increase the knowledge base of every employee within a company so that every person is on the same page who needs to be. With a level, controlled, knowledge management approach, companies can worry less about keeping people informed and assume efforts toward innovation.
Having a staff member or small team completely dedicated to knowledge management will help strengthen the ties within a company. And not just ties in an objective sense (product and processes) but in a subjective one too. With people behind strong knowledge management programs, culture and communication thrive in business.
In regards to knowledge management products, the information collected over a period of time on a product can help innovate it. Information can be collected internally by a staff member and externally by clients. A knowledge management specialist on staff is helpful for picking up internal tidbits other employees say that may not seem important now, but can be of use later — which is the whole point!
At the end of the day — and quarter — knowledge management exists for product improvement. What starts with people, ends with a product. Think of it like a wash cycle: People, product, repeat.
Just like learning is necessary, knowledge management is necessary for an organization to flourish. The collection of data and insights over time allows companies to stay ahead of industry trends and, a lot of the time, create their own.