☄☄☄ There’s no way to understate the importance of Knowledge Management in the 21st-century organization.
If you are a business person, management student or someone who is involved in a business organisation or a non-profit organization, you might have heard the term Knowledge Management (KM). So, what is KM? If you search the internet for answers you get different definitions in each site, that is because there is no single definition for KM. Different organizations will continue to use different definitions of KM because their value chains benefit from different types of knowledge. Based on the type of knowledge that an organization intends on leveraging, there will be different approaches and definitions to KM.
KM is the process of creating and sharing knowledge thereby, maximizing their potential which makes them intangible assets of the organization. KM is about making significant knowledge available to the necessary people.
In his famous quote, Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, once said: “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.”
In other words, knowledge management makes it easier to find the information or the people who hold the information you need.
A rough idea of KM
In earlier days, people used to learn cooking by reading recipe books. Tough people gained knowledge of the recipes they could not replicate the original taste of the dish. Nowadays, we have all the cooking videos on the internet and we could have better knowledge of how the materials are prepared and handled. But this still does not ensure that you could reproduce the original taste 100%. This is because the dishes depends in all of the practices of cooking, starting from hand-picking each of the vegetables, chopping techniques, handling the utensils and even the knowledge of the spread of heat in that utensil. If this complete knowledge is shared it could ensure that the taste if the dish remains unchanging even though cooked by many other individuals.
This provision is what knowledge management provides and in this Information era, KM can be crucial when it comes to large organizations which have a bulk knowledge in the form of experience and ideas, needs to chose what is important for innovation or for the growth of the company. Also when it comes to small organisations or start-ups, one significant piece of knowledge needs to be successfully transferred so that it can continue to exist.
Why you need a KM?
The importance Knowledge Management cannot be understated. It can help any organisation to grow and to evolve. These are listed below:
Wilful nature of KM
The best aspect to KM is that it encourages individuals to share their knowledge willfully. This knowledge can be found in various methods starting from storytelling. There are companies which have made the submission of contents mandatory. They have created shared knowledge repositories, such as databases. But because of their mandatory nature, there is a lot of other supplementary information which is lost and there is bulk information collected which could be considered as Junk.
KM could create a ‘network’ effect by allowing to connect people with the purpose of sharing knowledge, making that knowledge more easily accessible. Imagine that there are various groups of people working in a company like Developers, Testers, Marketing and Customer relations. The knowledge that is possessed by each of this group, on the whole, helps the success of the company. The communication that is between each of these departments is of relevance to all other departments. KM devises a way to best transfer this communicated knowledge to relevant people, so as to be able to take advantage of it or to ensure that relevant knowledge is not lost.
Knowledge as an Asset
KM is useful because it places a focus on knowledge as an actual asset, rather than as something intangible and considers intellectuality as a capital in organizations. Let’s say that a person has gained a lot of knowledge through his experience in a certain area of a profession and wants to pass this knowledge to others, most probably his successors. Here the knowledge in his mind must be communicated and the person not only should understand it, but also internalize it so that they can effectively use this knowledge.
Stimulates a Cultural change
Actively managing organizational knowledge can also stimulate cultural change and innovation by encouraging the free flow of ideas. KM could provide a platform to interact. Interactions would take place in a structured process by giving the members a free and open atmosphere to explain their thoughts and ideas. This would create an atmosphere for the all of members to feel belonged to the organisation and mutual respect and understanding towards their leaders.
For example, GE (General Electric) an American multinational corporation has created a Change Acceleration Process (CAP) program which includes management development, business-unit leadership, and focused workshops. CAP was created to not only convey the latest knowledge to up-and-coming managers but also open up dialogue, instill corporate values, and stimulate cultural change.
Failures and Learning routine
“To move ahead, one must often first look behind” and “A productive failure is better than an unproductive success” is some of the words of wise men. KM provides a way to investigate the failures in order to identify the shortcomings and reasons for failures in organisations. It helps to share success and failures in the organization to create a culture of mutual trust and belief. Blaming others for failures leaves less chance for learning.
For example, the United States Army has created a learning organisation called the After Action Reviews (AARs) to continuously assess their units and to look for ways to improve. After every important activity or event, Army teams review assignments, identify successes and failures, and seek ways to perform better the next time.
Innovation and the Bigger picture
A systematic creation and transfer of knowledge could trigger the innovation process. Imagine knowledge as Dots and KM as the network that connects the Dots. This network can help to identify the picture that remained hidden under the Dots. This could help you to understand and identify the potential markets which were right under your nose but you failed to notice because of the ignorance to see the bigger picture. KM makes room for active experimentation which usually does not affect the live system resulting in minimal consequence damage and provides a platform to understand cause and effect events. In other words, KM increases efficiency and productivity and allows you to work better, reducing the tendency to “reinvent the wheel.”
Increase in Customer Satisfaction
KM facilitates ways to speed up access to information and this is very useful for the sharing of knowledge in cross-collaboration projects help to increase the value offered to customers. The organization is able to give faster answers or shorten the time it takes to improve a product or service. This leads to better customer satisfaction.
Many companies have invested in KM systems
Many of the multinational companies have already invested KM systems. For example, GE (General Electric) has a Corporate Executive Council (CEC) to help executives cut through the noise, share information, and improve their decision-making. The CEC is composed of the heads of GE’s fourteen major businesses and the two-day sessions are forums for sharing best practices, accelerating progress, and discussing successes, failures, and experiences. KMWorld which is a magazine for articles on KM has released 100 Companies That Matter in Knowledge Management 2017 gives you the list of companies that have implemented KM systems in their organisations.
KM is the Future
Looking at the way the world is growing in Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is obvious that AI’s would replace most of the work done by humans in the future. Assuming that they could have equal access to the knowledge of the world. Their only difference could be in their KM system which determines how an AI would effectively use this knowledge.
The information mentioned here is just the layer of cream on a cake. There is lots of research done in KM and many models of KM also have come. The fact that KM is a necessity is irrefutable. Both now and for the future!