Unlike Many other resources that get depleted when shared, and idea or a knowledge nugget only gets enriched. From where an era where labor and capital ruled, we have evolved to a period where knowledge is seen as the key, if not the sole, differentiator.
A quick search in the web for "the faces of knowledge management' retrieves over 40 thousands results. The results included information on MIR, a speedometer, lifestyle in Mojave deserts and a highway driving guide amongest others. of course, there were a couple of writeups about many faces of knowledge management, but many an impatient surfer would have missed them.
Much of the bottom line will now depend on how fast companies are able to access, assimilate, digest and react to the information that is available to them.
And companies are focusing on ways to canalize the know how that is readily available.
Knowledge, it forms and KM
According to Thomas Davenport and Larry Prusak (authors, Working Knowledge) :
Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values , contextual information and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organization routines, processes, practices and norms.
However, such knowledge would remain inaccessible and, therefore unused unless organizations proactively work towards channelizing them knowledge management is the process of selecting, organizing, archiving, filtering and reusing knowledge in such a way that it improves an employees comprehension in the relevant area. These activities can be easily handled only as long as such knowledge is documentable - explicit knowledge. For instance, a developers knowledge is new generation programming language may be documentable. The developer can put down the basic rules of the game that can be archived an reused by some else.
A User-Interface design specialist may be able to say which design works best. Or, for that matter, a programmer can spot the 'bug' that is standing in the way. No literature may have a precise solution to these problems. Such tacit knowledge gathered by experience cannot be documented as the knowledge owner himself may not be conscious about its existence and the form well enough to be able to codify it.
The KM Approach : Keys to Success
Most companies adopt a three pronged approach to manage knowledge - People, Process and Technology. The emphasis on the three elements may vary across companies though.
Despite the varying prominence given to each of these three elements most companies have recognized the need to have people at the center of their KM Initiatives. Technology and Processes are important but play more of an enabling role. Putting into place a technology intensive KM system without taking adequate steps on the people front will be of little help.
A supposed loss of power when one's knowledge is shared with co-worker and an acute indisposition to share my hard earned knowledge are two aspects that result in a 'will not share' mindset. When it comes to using other's knowledge, there is a perceived loss of the individual's worth. Conquering such cultural issues is crucial and is easier said than done.
Incentives go a long way towards bringing people into the KM fold. However their power is restrictive. A pure incentive driven approach runs the risk of people sharing knowledge just to be in line for payoffs, a stance that has an effect on quality. Instead, at Infosys for instance, we have a reward program that has a good blend of material and incorporeal rewards. The knowledge sharers are warded gift certificates that can be redeemed in online stores. They are felicitated and given organisation wide visibility for their contribution. Visibility and consequent recognition apart from fueling further participation from them , lure the others into sharing.It is therefore essential for the incentivization program to have a good mix of material and soft rewards the former is critical to generate interest , the latter contributes towards expanding and nourishing the movement organisation wide.
Often, technology is seen as savior . The market is proliferated by 'just add water' KM systems providers. It becomes easy for the senior management to set the KM ball rolling by investing in ready made technology. While such high investments do cause a great deal of KM awareness which may result in generating substantial interest within the company, it does little to result in sustained action. The reason : People. To what extent were they involved in the launch of the initiative.