The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines knowledge as:
- Knowing, familiarity gained by experience
- Person’s range of information; it came to my knowledge, became known to me; to my knowledge, (1) so far as I know, (2) as I know for certain.
- Theoretical or practical understanding (of the subject, language, etc.); the sum of what is known (every branch of knowledge); certain understanding, opposite to opinion.
The Encarta Dictionary defines knowledge as:
- Information in mind: general awareness or possession of information, facts, ideas, truths, or principles Her knowledge and interests are extensive.
- Specific information: clear awareness or explicit information, e.g. of a situation or fact I believe they have knowledge of the circumstances.
- All that can be known: all the information, facts, truths, and principles learned throughout time With all our knowledge, we still haven’t found a cure for the common cold.
- Learning through experience or study: familiarity or understanding gained through experience or study knowledge of nuclear physics
- Communication transmission of information: information services and the storage and transmission of information, especially within a large organization.
Knowledge is a company’s proprietary advantage, as it is the primary resource for continuous innovation.
Knowledge can be classified as either tacit knowledge or explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is codified knowledge and can be communicated in a formal systematic language. It does not require the direct experience of the knowledge that is being acquired and can therefore easily be used by computers, whereas tacit knowledge is highly personal and hard to convey in a formalized language. Individual, experience-based know-how is a form of tacit knowledge.
Knowledge enables us to organize our experiences, assumptions and deeply held beliefs. Conveying this to others so that it becomes visible is by its very nature inherently difficult.
Knowledge within an organization is embodied in people, it is an intangible asset and it is derived from processes, systems, and cultures associated with the organization.
Definition Of Knowledge Management
One definition of knowledge management by J Liebowitz is:
The process of creating value from an organization’s intangible assets, that is how to best leverage knowledge internally and externally.
Knowledge management is often confused with information management; however, they are separate subject areas.
The fundamental difference between knowledge and information is that Data is information. Knowledge has to do with the process of learning, understanding and applying information.
Knowledge should be applied; it is often not enough to simply know something. You must apply what you know in order to create value.
In the 2002 article “Knowledge management: philosophy, processes, and pitfalls” Soo, Devinney, Midgley, and Deering say:
True knowledge, by definition, is non-codified. As soon as it becomes codified and transmittable it ceases to be knowledge and becomes data. It can only become new knowledge when combined in some unique way leading to an actionable outcome. It is the fundamental and embedded characteristic of knowledge that makes its management so frustratingly difficult.
A better definition of knowledge management that better encompasses the various elements of knowledge and its management is defined by Brelade and Harman in their 2001 article “How human resources can influence knowledge management”:
Knowledge management is the acquisition and use of resources to create an environment in which information is accessible to individuals and in which individuals acquire, share and use that information to develop their own knowledge and are encouraged and enabled to apply their knowledge for the benefit of the organization.
In its simplest form, knowledge management is about treating knowledge as a strategic asset. An asset that can be used to drive sustainable business advantage.
It is the system used for managing, capturing and reusing the knowledge that resides both in electronic form on your company network and more importantly the tacit knowledge contained within your employee’s heads.
Knowledge Management System Functionality
Most knowledge management systems incorporate the following functionality:
- A document management repository
- A question and answer module.
- Various subject matter/knowledge portals
- Collaboration and project workspaces
- An ability to search
- Employee skills and expertise profiling
Benefits of a Knowledge Management System
There are numerous benefits that are said to be found from the use of a knowledge management system, including:
- Improved productivity
- Increased innovation
- An improved ability to make decisions
- Improved customer service as a result of being able to respond to questions more quickly / effectively
- Improved ability to connect and collaborate with Geographically diverse teams
- Sharing of ideas and best practices
- Improved employee retention.