Published 13th February 2006 by Constructing Excellence
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management is the term used to describe the processes that can enable organisations to share and exploit the knowledge and learning of its people. This can result in:
- increased efficiency in project implementation,
- reductions in wasteful costs,
- greater innovation,
- greater success in winning new business
Through Knowledge Management the vital lessons and insights that are usually locked up in peoples’ heads can be made available for others. Managers and engineers that are facing unfamiliar environments and problems can be better primed and prepared. Of course there is no substitute for direct experience, but with effective knowledge management, people do not need to go through all the same painful learning that their colleagues or predecessors have already absorbed. They will not need to repeat the same mistakes, re-invent the same processes or rules of thumb.
What is Knowledge and Why Does it Need Managing?
Knowledge is not simply information. To have knowledge about something involves the ability to judge and interpret rather than just having been told about it.
Knowledge is typically accumulated through experience or education, but there are management routines and techniques that can help to share what people know. Knowledge also comes in different types:
- explicit knowledge – knowledge that is easily communicated or written down
- tacit knowledge – knowledge that is held in peoples’ heads and is difficult to pass on to others.
Tacit knowledge is often the most crucial, because it can form a distinct advantage over competitors. It is much more personal and cannot be easily picked up and imitated by your rivals. By contrast, explicit knowledge can be easily assimilated, distributed, or simply copied and taken away. To be transferred, tacit knowledge requires person-to-person contact, or else individual learning and experience. It is not just a matter of copy and paste.
Knowledge management is a fashionable buzzword and many tools, publications and events are available. It is a difficult and time-consuming task to filter through them to assess what is genuinely useful. This is particularly so for smaller firms that have limited time and resources.
However, managing your company’s knowledge does not have to be an arduous task. You are probably already doing many of the things that contribute to knowledge management and it is worth evaluating how your existing tools and activities are helping to create and exploit knowledge.
To find out more download our Introduction to Knowledge Management.
Filed in: Business Processes