Knowledege Management Part 1: What is it?

This is the first part of a series of posts looking at Knowledge Management (KM), based on my research as part of my dissertation. In these posts I will seek to explore what it is, whether it is worthwhile, and look at its future.

What is Knowledge Management?:

Despite the vast amount of research into knowledge management, the academic literature and knowledge management community has failed to come up with an agreed upon definition (Perrott, 2007). In recent years, a lot of the literature on the subject has become increasingly fragmented, with practitioners going down their own distinct paths. One of the most succinct definitions that I have come accross is this from a KPMG report into KM.

“The systematic and organised attempt to use knowledge within an organisation to improve performance” KPMG (2000, p8).

Concept of KM:

Knowledge Management is “concerned with the creation, generation, codification, and transfer of information and ideas (Lehaney, Clarke, Coakes, & Jack, 2004, p. 13), hence it not only involves documenting and transferring knowledge but also encouraging the creation of new knowledge. Within the academic literature there have been many attempts to explain the concepts of KM, typically they centre around two distinct viewpoints. The western view, that the essential attribute of knowledge is ‘truthfulness’ and as such it can be expressed explicitly and shared in the form of data and manuals. The Asian (mainly Japanese) viewpoint is based around the concept of ‘Ba’, a shared context around time and space where knowledge is shared, created and utilised (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995).

Knowledge Management in Practice:

Knowledge Management has taken many different forms within organisations. One of the most popular forms of Knowledge Management is the creation of IT-based repositories, where practitioners try to identify, capture, process and store knowledge within an organisation. This IT approach assumes that knowledge sharing is enabled by technology and not by people or processes.

Another type of approach is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, by helping people to locate and access the possessors of the experience or knowledge they seek. This approach has been used in many large multinationals including: Microsoft, HP and BP.

A third approach is the knowledge environment project which seeks to establish a culture/ environment that is conducive to knowledge creation and sharing. This can take the form of IT systems which provide a framework for connecting communities and their members together, for instance a network specifically for finance professionals to share their knowledge and experiences.

Why undertake KM?

Davenport and Prusak (2000, p. xix) claim that people have come to understand that “what an organization and its employees know is at the heart of how the organization functions.” In understanding this fact, companies have sought to manage and control knowledge. Often after corporate re-engineering (i.e. redundancies) knowledge workers were found to have taken some of the key organisational knowledge with them; leading to knowledge gaps and costly mistakes (Davenport & Prusak, 2000). Knowledge management can reduce that risk (Perrott, 2007).


Davenport, T. H., & Prusak, L. (2000). Working Knowledge: how organisations manage what they know (Paperback ed.). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

KPMG. (2000). Knowledge Management Research Report 2000. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from KnowledgeBoard:

Lehaney, B., Clarke, S., Coakes, E., & Jack, G. (2004). Beyond Knowledge Management. London: Idea Group Publishing.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Perrott, B. E. (2007). A strategic risk approach to knowledge management [Electronic version]. Business Horizons , 50 (6), 523-533.


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5 Responses to “Knowledege Management Part 1: What is it?”

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