knowledge management and organizational learning

Organizations are built and sustained by the collective brain power of its members. But that collective brain power is only as good as the memory that serves it up. And so was defined knowledge management.

Fundamentally, knowledge management (KM) is the effective administration of people, processes, technology, and information.* In encapsulates the concept of organizational knowledge/learning, which is the collection of facts, methods, and expertise by a group of people for dissemination and use. These days, the wide scope of new organizational knowledge coupled with the speed at which it gets developed leads to a distinct requirement to capture and centralize the knowledge. As a result, innovators and thinkers will be enabled to collectively work toward building new products and technologies while feeding back into the cycle of strategic thought.

Knowledge is king. Storing, sharing, and learning from it is royalty. This realization has progressed over the past decade or so into a “google”plex dollar business (“googolplex” is my favorite number – i’ll post on it at some point). But why are some organizations and some people so resistant to implementing proper KM practices?
Knowledge management needs to be part of every company strategy and needs to be ingrained in each of its four main components: people, processes, technology, and information. It should branch into all departments – and for each become the engine of collaboration and the backbone of innovative thought. Whatever technology is implemented to enable effective knowledge management, it should have dedicated support, alignment with existing security protocols, and proper branding and marketability as an engaging tool to use.

The benefits must also be made visible. Incentivize users to contribute knowledge in a semi-structured form. Make it something that is talked about in meetings, used in positive performance evaluations, built into non-work related worlds (as a place to “escape”), and an activity that is comforting and welcome amongst all levels of employees.

Within specific job functions, it’ll open up opportunities for valuable feedback. Jeff Lash, from his “How To Be A Good Product Manager” blog, has a good post on knowledge sharing and its benefits within Product Management. Everyone has “lessons to share, but even more to learn” he says. This philosophy is applicable to everyone and every job function – technical development, analysis, sales, marketing, management, etc. That’s why KM is necessary for innovation and success and as part of an over-arching business strategy. The improvement of learning across the organization will be measurable in every day communication, work efficiency, and eventually, revenues. 

Lastly, it’s worth noting that with KM, the design and implementation effort is a topic of its own (of which I’m quite fond). But hey, strategize first.

*Other definitions can be found on the KM Forum.

2 thoughts on “knowledge management and organizational learning

  1. KB,You mention that organizations and people tend to be resistant to knowledge management system and probably for two fundamental reasons: 1) Trust Issues, i.e. my ideas will be stolen by someone else within the organization 2) Lack of time, adding information within KM system will add to my load. When it comes to the first issue that is clearly an organizational issue that probably cannot be addressed in this blog, but with regards to second issue, I think that structurally changing the workflow which incorporates the KM will make people more amenable to using it. Any thoughts on that?MGP

  2. MGP,You are spot on with identifying both issues. For #1, the trust issue will never be gone but surely can be minimized with the establishment of good corporate culture. Incentivize around the sharing of ideas and collaborative efforts moving forward, not around the origination and holding of ideas. With #2, it’s truly all about workflow. Dependability needs to be created so that people actually find value in KM (and hence the importance in defining proper requirements, marketability, support mechanisms, etc). But more importantly, people need to be naturally thinking about contributing to KM systems because of the value it brings to the organization as a whole. This can only happen by proper insertion to daily workflows and processes, as you have stated. And examples of using KM set by the leadership/mgmt/execs help too 😉

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