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Understanding the Management of Knowledge

The management of knowledge is a much-discussed subject, and for companies, in particular, it’s highly important for them to define their protected content and have fail-safe systems to store it. The Theory of knowledge goes back hundreds of years, with many, debating what it is before even considering the management of it.

Many organisations try to control information the same way zookeepers would control a tiger in a cage; in a safe and secure place with a padlock on the door. While never claiming to be a knowledge management system, Lotus Notes control information exactly this way.

Your computer, and all the files and folders within it have no way of supporting knowledge management within an organisation. Many of the people I meet today who ask me to set up their SharePoint environment talk about structure as the basis for managing their information and knowledge.

Of course this is true; this is a comfort decision as computer users have never known any other way of categorising their content but using a folder as a subject container. Whilst this has been the normal behaviour it is a single dimension tagging process and misses the nuances of content management systems that allow a multidimensional tagging process.

The philosophical debate around the theory of knowledge involves experiences, competence, capability, information and human input. At this point, you should understand that human contribution is crucial to defining knowledge, and as humans, our opinion, knowledge and truth are only defined with the perspective of the source.

Throughout the years, knowledge management has come to mean different things to different people. Many individuals have different perceptions and levels of understanding of the term knowledge management because each person will remember different buzz-words and learning strategies when it comes to the management of knowledge.

Let’s take a look at what the Oxford definition of Knowledge is for a more in-depth understanding:

  • Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

  • Awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation

Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes, perception, association, reasoning and communication. These should all be taken into account when considering corporate knowledge management.

In a corporate setting, knowledge is something that comes from combining team experiences and understanding. In essence, knowledge is achieved by combining the right people with the relevant experience and skills. This is how organisational knowledge works and why matrix management structures are likely to be successful.

For example, you want a team who can offer the following:

  • Leadership – guide the team and manage the knowledge.

  • Organization – understand the different steps involved and stay on top of those

  • Culture (creating a fertile soil for learning).

  • Structured business processes – sticking to regimented processes will allow knowledge to be managed more effectively.

  • Competency – those who manage knowledge should have the skills understanding and abilities to carry out business procedures effectively.

Many organisations know how to generate knowledge, but very few understand how to store or manage it. Knowledge management systems are built to contain and protect, usually as part of a project within IT. However, even in the building stages, it’s important to bear in mind that knowledge is a moving target that requires constant assessment and review.

Some organisations, such as Microsoft and Google, understand that knowledge can come from any direction because as a global team, it’s impossible to understand which experiences, processes or perceptions will define and add knowledge. Their knowledge systems are open, shared and available; however, they do retain ownership, keeping them in control.

NOTE: The management of knowledge cannot solely be contained within a system; each knowledge subject needs to be owned by a person or group that are responsible for improving and expanding their understanding. It would also be their job to provide feedback into the knowledge circle for each specific ‘subject’ or ‘discipline’

SharePoint is a tool to develop your knowledge management system. It can effectively balance the level of control v availability with tracking search and push technologies that enable a broader reach for new ideas and considerations. In time, this will become knowledge which is then stored and updated within the governance defined by the organisation.

These tools are readily available, but before knowledge is shared, the organisation needs to consider the big picture and define its content, give it an owner and define a strategy. This ensures that the right tools and support are established by the right people in order for them to create the corporate knowledge and IPR that adds real value to a business.

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