During the last 20 years, a new technology known as knowledge management has emerged inside large institutions both public and private aimed at taming the tidal wave of internal and external information large-scale organizations must wade through on a daily basis.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge, of course, is the total experience and findings of individuals, and management is a set of strategies for dealing with a system. Put the two together and you’re left with a system of ensuring the insights and discoveries made by individuals inside an institution are made known or at least available to the people who need them when needed.
While the concept of knowledge management, or KM, seems obvious, it wasn’t until 1991 the idea was formalized. Since that time, many large corporations and other institutions have adopted KM systems in the form of codified rules and strategies for the collection, storage and distribution of knowledge, and hired staff dedicated to running them.
Why Use a KM System?
The amount of knowledge generated in the Information Age is staggering. Having to rediscover facts, finding new sources for information or coming up with solutions for problems others have already solved can be costly and time consuming.
To avoid this loss of productivity, KM experts have devised four stages of knowledge development they use to create KM systems:
This structured approach facilitates KM by allowing users to know when new knowledge has arisen, how to codify it in a form useful to others, where to gather the new knowledge as a single unit and how to find old knowledge when answers are needed for problems or topics that have come up previously.
What Are the Benefits of KM?
Simply put, time spent searching for answers cannot be spent on other tasks. If employees, students, or clients must repeat research that has already been compiled elsewhere, there is a genuine loss of time and money that could have been avoided. Many companies have found this to be so true they have dedicated entire departments to KM, often going as far as hiring a CKO or chief knowledge officer.
KM can also provide better workplace safety by ensuring employees in critical positions are kept current on the latest techniques and insights. Techniques are quickly and accurately disseminated to people who can put them into immediate practice. Training new employees becomes easier. New products move to market more quickly. Innovation becomes easier to achieve, and expertise for which companies pay top dollar is put to work in as broad an area as possible.
How to Implement KM Systems
Building a KM system begins with assigning the task of overseeing the system, either to an existing employee or hiring a knowledge manager. A database is established for the storage of knowledge and contact information for available experts, and policies are then put in place to offer incentives for those who contribute to the knowledge base or which make such contributions mandatory.
Companies may find the task overwhelming at first due to the shear size of the undertaking. Often, managers find it difficult to know where to begin. The quickest and most efficient way to overcome these initial difficulties is by hiring an outside consultant or by bringing on a new employee with previous KM experience.