The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Knowledge management

Knowledge management (KM) is the organization, creation, sharing and flow of knowledge within organizations.



A widely accepted 'working definition' of knowledge management applied in worldwide organizations is available from the WWW Virtual Library on Knowledge Management:

"Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival, and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change.... Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings."

In simpler terms, Knowledge Management seeks to make the best use of the knowledge that is available to an organization, creating new knowledge, increasing awareness and understanding in the process.

"The goal of commercial knowledge is not truth, but effective performance: not 'what is right' but 'what works' or even 'what works better' where better is defined in competitive and financial contexts" Demarest, M, 1997. Long Range Planning 30, (3) pp 374-384

Personal_knowledge_management - PKM pays attention to the organization of information, thoughts and beliefs. In this approach, the responsibility for knowledge creation lies with the individual who is charged to learn, connect and share personal insights.

Enterprise knowledge management - EKM is concerned with strategy, process and technologies to acquire, store, share and secure organizational understanding, insights and core distinctions. KM at this level is closely tied to competitive advantage, innovation and agility.

It is helpful to make a clear distinction between knowledge on the one hand, and information and data on the other.

Information can be considered as a message. It typically has a sender and a receiver. Information is the sort of stuff that can, at least potentially, be saved onto a computer. Data is a type of information that is structured, but has not been interpreted.

Knowledge might be described as information that has a use or purpose. Whereas information can be placed onto a computer, knowledge is emergent, and socially constructed, exists in the heads of people. Knowledge is information to which an intent has been attached.

See: KM concepts

First and second generation Knowledge Management

By the early nineties, it was clear that there were two distinct branches of Knowledge Management.

First generation Knowledge Management

First generation Knowledge Management involves the capture of information and experience so that it is easily accessible in a corporate environment. An alternate term is "knowledge capture or harvesting". Managing this capture allows the system to grow into a powerful information asset and Corporate memory. This led to organisations investing heavily in technological fixes that had either little impact or a negative impact on the way in which knowledge was used.

A typical scenario might have seen an organisation install a sophisticated intranet in order to categorize and disseminate information, only to find that the extra work involved in setting up the metadata meant that few within the organisation actually used the intranet. This occasionally led to management mandating the use of the intranet, resulting in resentment amongst staff, and undermining their trust in the organisation. Thus first generation solutions are often counterproductive.

Knowledge is not a commodity but a process. But a suitable epistemology was found, in the form of that developed by Michael Polanyi. Polanyi’s epistemology objectified the cognitive component of knowledge – learning and doing – by labelling it tacit knowledge and for the most part removing it from the public view.

Its failure to provide any theoretical understanding of how organisations learn new things and how they act on this information meant that first generation Knowledge Management was incapable of managing knowledge creation.

Second Generation Knowledge Management

The advent of complexity theory and chaos theory provided more metaphors that enable managers to replace models of organisations as integrated systems with models of organisations as complex interdependent entities that are capable of responding to their environment.

Second generation Knowledge Management gives priority to the way in which people construct and use knowledge. It derives its ideas from complex systems, often making use of organic metaphors to describe knowledge growth. It is closely related to organizational learning. It recognises that learning and doing are more important to organisational success than dissemination and imitation.

See also

Finding related topics


  • Frid, Randy, (2003), Frid Framework for Enterprise Knowledge Management, ISBN: 0595306993
  • Mentzas, G., D. Apostolou, A. Abecker, R. Young (2003)Knowledge Asset Management: Beyond the Process-centred and Product-centred Approaches, Series: Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing, XVI, 208 p. 76 illus., Hardcover, ISBN: 1-85233-583-1
  • Desouza, K.C. and Hensgen, T., (2005). Managing Information in Complex Organizations. M.E. Sharpe.
  • Leonard, D. and Swap, W., (2005). Deep smarts. How to cultivate and transfer enduring business wisdom. Harvard Business Press. ISBN 1591395283
  • Enabling Knowledge Creation : New Tools for Unlocking the Mysteries of Tacit Understanding by Ikujiro Nonaka, Georg Von Krogh, and Kazuo Ichijo, Oxford University Press, 2000, hardcover, 304 pages, ISBN 0195126165
  • Bernbom, Gerald, editor. (2001). Information Alchemy: The Art and Science of Knowledge Management. EDUCAUSE Leadership Series #3. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Graham, Ricci. (2001).
  • Graham, Ricci. (2001). "Benchmarking Jackson State." Knowledge Management, (4): 5. p. 11. May, 2001.
  • Petrides, L. and Nodine, T., (2003). Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape. Monograph, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.
  • A. Tiwana, The Knowledge Management Toolkit: Orchestrating IT, Strategy, and Knowledge Platforms (2nd Edition), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.
  • Ward, Lewis. (2001). "Collaborative KM Tools: Putting Customer Care Online." Knowledge Management (4):4. pp. CS1-CS6. Special Advertising Section.
  • Leibold, M. Probst, G. and Gibbert, M. (2001) Strategic Management in the Knowledge Economy, Wiley, Erlangen 2001.
  • Probst, G. Raub, S. and Romhardt K. (1999) Managing Knowledge, Wiley, London, 1999 (Exists also in other languages).
  • Little, S.E. Quintas P. and Ray T. (2001) Managing Knowledge: An Essential Reader, Sage Publications, London

External links

Knowledge management news

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04