What do you know? The basics of knowledge management.

It might seem an odd subject to focus on but I am currently looking at Knowledge Management or KM as a concept.  One of my main clients works in this field so it makes sense to learn more.  I  have always been intrigued how you learn and share institutional information effectively. The more I discover about this sector the more fascinated I become especially its impact on  processes and customer behaviour.

What is IT and is it treatable?

KM focuses on how an organisation identifies, creates, captures, acquires, shares and leverage their informations. Systematic processes support these activities, also enabling replication of success. All of these are specific actions companies take to manage their information effectively.

Management consultants are probably responsible for the language related to KM. As the internet grew companies, organisations and individuals realised the value of this concept and the terminology spread. The Intranet, an internal website was the first tool to improve the accessibility of information.  We normally think of the data divas who talk dashboards, lessons learned, best practice, community of practice and expertise. The realisation that this data had its uses resulted in the adoption of the name KM. Social media analytics is a simple example of data which can effect your digital strategy.

Management consultants disseminated the principles and the techniques of KM to other organizations, professionals and disciplines.  This was perfect timing as the power of the internet, social media and the digital world provide a primed resource ready for recognition. For me the key point is knowledge is an asset whether you are individual, a small business, a company or a major organisation. KM is relevant to the individual as well as the team and it can be an amazing tool for shaping strategies.

 Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge. Tom Davenport


Content is king and the same is true for KM? The most obvious is the making of  data and information available to the members of the company through dashboards, portals, often using content management systems. Putting this information available online, making it accessible. You can use software and systems to do this and there is a whole growth sector and theory around Enterprise Search, a new term emerging. As we have more and more content we need to make sure we can find what we need, when we need it.


Now for the bit I like. Knowledge is valuable, and technology enables it but KM lives in people. The best way to learn is to read a book, talk to an expert, watch a video like a TED Talk. Nowadays locating the right expert with the knowledge that you need, though, can be a problem, particularly if, for example, the expert is in another country or hard to find.

We used to identify people through Yellow Pages, now we have the world wide web. LinkedIn acts like a CV service so you can identify a specific skill or advice. Recently we have seen the growth of social media and networking communications as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They will have a search function which includes an expertise locator system or skills.

How do you do it

I loathe the phrases “Lessons Learned” “Best Practice” but there are databases  that attempt to capture and make KM accessible or what I call “how to do it”. In terms of KM the emphasis is upon capturing information related to expertise.  Making it explicit. Whilst one process might work for you with regard to time management, or customer management it may not work for your competitor based in another country.


Practice makes perfect

Heard the term Communities of Practice? These are groups of people that come together to share stories, discuss challenges and resolve opportunities. COPs emphasise, build upon, and take advantage of the social nature of learning. Think water cooler moments as a metaphor for the concept. One of the downsides of our virtual working remotely culture is the loss of natural sharing of knowledge. Therefore we have seen a growth in digital communities to ask questions, learn tips and techniques. And there is a water cooler movement on Twitter.

Many companies believe COPs are an essential component of KM and personal development. These are groups of practitioners who share a common interest in a specific area of competence and are willing to share their experiences. COPs are also known as learning communities, thematic groups or networks.

Intellectual capital includes everything a company or individual might know. This can be ideas, different types of information and innovative thinking. The bottom line is that this data can be examined and used to make a profit.


Explicit knowledge encompasses the things we know that we can write down, share with others and put into a database. For example a list of clients or potential customers we might want to talk to or how to make a cake. This is information which can be described in detailed or involves  a sequence of actions.

KM often refers to “tacit knowledge”. Tacit knowledge is what we do not know that we know. it includes know how, rules of thumb, experience, insights and intuition. Often this tacit knowledge is harder to express, process, capture or share in a systematic or logical manner. This distinction is critical and its a core theme of KM.

I will write more about KM in future blogs but the key takeaways are

  • knowledge is an important asset, knowledge is information in context to produce an actionable understanding
  • KM is a systematic process, needed to create, capture, shared and leveraged for success
  • there are many drivers to effectively manage KM
  • barriers can be overcome and managing KM really pays.

So a quick basic introduction to KM. More to follow and the potential to grow business and improve skills is endless.