Demystify Knowledge Management

A key problem is the language that we use. Everybody understands and nobody argues about the importance of better managing our knowledge, but as soon as we say 'knowledge management' people tend to say, 'is it a system or software? can you do KM to us? etc.

A simple reordering of the words 'management' and 'knowledge', can change the perception and understanding entirely.

Similarly, I often get the same confusion from seminar delegates with the words information and knowledge. People still often argue about differences between 'learning organizations' and 'knowledge based and knowledge driven organizations'. And, increasingly today, I get lots of questions asked in my workshops about new knowledge and innovation.

So I have developed a simple tool with 10 points to demystify the jargon and start talking about KM in words we all understand.

I offer the essence of it here. This should work for you, if you are experiencing difficulties and misunderstandings. But you may agree or disagree with this. Please let me know your thoughts on the feedback below.

1. We communicate 'information' to one another. We do this verbally and through the use of a variety of information and communication tools and technologies (ICT). We inform others and we become better informed.

2. 'Learning' is the process of turning information into knowledge. The information we receive may be 'intellectual' such as listening or reading, or it may be 'experiential' such as 'learning whilst working/acting. We learn through our senses by filtering, analysing and synthesizing the new learning's with our existing knowledge.

3. 'Knowledge' resides within us. It is a human phenomena. We can call this knowledge within us our 'tacit' knowledge, and when we externalise it through communicating to others, it may be called our knowledge that is made explicit.

4. Our 'explicit knowledge' is information to others, unless they already know. It becomes part of their synthesized knowledge when they have performed the learning process.

5. Information can be communicated in seconds. Knowledge takes time through learning.

6. Collaboration (co-labouring) is working together as a team towards achieving a common mission, goal or objective. We can learn to effectively collaborate.

7. Managing knowledge effectively, which is about identifying critical knowledge areas that will make a 'big difference', capturing and synthesizing new learning's and ideas, retaining knowledge, transferring or sharing knowledge, and applying knowledge to make the best decisions, requires the best communications, collaboration, learning and knowledge strategies, processes, methods tools and techniques.

This may be called 'knowledge management'

8. We must manage our knowledge at the personal, team, organizational and inter-organizational levels, to bring about 'effective knowledge management'. For each of the four levels, we must learn how to effectively communicate, collaborate, learn, share and apply our knowledge. We must learn 'why, what, who, how, where and when' for each of the four levels. For many organizations, this may be called 'extraordinary knowledge management'.

9. The 'Four Dimensions of Knowledge Management' is a framework to bring about extraordinary knowledge management. This can be used to help organizations to 'mainstream knowledge management'.

10. A natural outcome from effective knowledge management is innovation. Mainstreaming knowledge management will bring about 'mainstreamed innovation'.

After presenting the 10 points in a KM workshop, delegates are then given the opportunity to discuss the use of these words, and my suggested definitions.

So far, many have said that it has helped them considerably to demystify KM and to realise, teach, and bring, about a common understanding of the term Knowledge Management, or another more suitable term for them, based on these principles.

I hope this helps

Ron Young

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