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Ask GovLoop – The Many Knowledge Management Definitions

Knowledge management has been around since the early 1990’s. There is still no direct definition of what Knowledge Management actually is. Here are a few explanations:

Knowledge Management is a framework that can be used for learning, capturing, sharing and exploiting knowledge, experience and good practices.

Knowledge Management is information or data management with the additional practice of capturing the tacit experience of the individual to be shared, used and built upon by the organization leading to increased productivity.

Knowledge Management consists of all the activities required to develop, maintain, evolve the environment, and support its interaction with people.

Basically, Knowlege Management is the discipline whereby a company proactively and explicitly manages its knowledge and intellectual capital in 3 categories:

1. Human capital (employee knowledge, education, experience, skills, etc.)
2. Structural capital (procedures, methods, documentation, patents, etc.)
3. Customer capital (information and insights about customers, their past purchases, their demographics, etc.)

• Explicit – Surfacing assumptions; codifying that which is known
• Systematic – Leaving things to serendipity will not achieve the benefits
• Vital Knowledge – You need to focus; you don’t have unlimited resources
• Processes – Knowledge management is a set of activities with its own tools and techniques

It is important to note that knowledge encompasses both tacit knowledge (in people’s heads) and explicit knowledge (codified and expressed as information in databases, documents etc.). A good knowledge program will address the processes of knowledge development and transfer for both these basic forms. If you cannot link the activities to the achievement of business goals, then it is not real Knowledge Management.

Knowledge Management is an oxymoron – nobody can really manage an asset which resides in the heads of employees, and is shared primarily through conversation. What you can do, though is: to manage the environment in which knowledge can be created, discovered, captured, shared, distilled, validated, transferred, adopted and applied.

Knowledge Management is technology, Web 2.0, or just getting the right information to the right people at the right time.

Knowledge Management is the way you manage your attention to the value of knowledge.

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Christopher Daniel, PMP

You really don’t understand how you’ve helped my argument at my agency. I’m using some of this material in a proposal to the PR office at my organization. This is great. Thanks for sharing . . . or using knowledge management.

Jack Lapke

In 6+ years of doing KM I have seen many definitions of KM, which tend to be dependent on the organization defining it and where they are in KM maturity. I have experienced that KM is about having a culture of knowledge sharing where members are empowered to share what they have learned. It’s about the processes they use and how to possibly improve those processes using available technology; not about the technology driving the processes or people.