Knowledge Management Part 3: The Future…

This is the final part of a series of posts looking at Knowledge Management (KM), in these posts I will seek to explore what it is, whether it is worthwhile, and look at its future.

The Future of Knowledge Management:

Knowledge Management, as a subject area, grew rapidly during the 90s and early part of this century, with a lot of interest from companies looking to improve their performance and leveraging the knowledge and experience spread around the world in increasingly global organisations.

Many companies found out the hard way in the economic downturn of the early 90s and again after the dot-com crash that when there were redundancies, significant amounts of key organisation knowledge left with them, leading to knowledge gaps and costly mistakes. In the current downturn, many companies are likely to suffer the same problems.

I believe that Knowledge Management, is one way for organisations to reduce that risk. Whether through codification of knowledge and know-how onto process maps and procedures, or by encouraging all employees to share their knowledge and experience with others, I believe that Knowledge Management can perform a valuable role in preserving and enhancing organisational performance. But it must be understood by senior management that implementing a KM initiative is not going to do anything but waste money until the employees on the ground accept the idea and there is a cultural shift in the organisation to sharing knowledge across all areas.

From my reading on the subject I think KM practitioners and academics have begun to understand that rather than the technology or processes being the key to a knowledge management initiative’s success, it is the organisational culture and the willingness of its employees to share knowledge that determines its success or failure, the technology merely plays an enabling or facilitating role.

In this current economic crisis, companies should be utilising their greatest resource, their employees, for their combined knowledge and experience to keep the company going but also exploit their ideas (because you can be sure they are there somewhere) and launch truly innovative products, it is the organisations that can innovate successfully in this downturn which will perform best when the economy recovers.

One excellent example of a knowledge sharing community in action is a website for students applying for graduate jobs, www.wikijob.co.uk. It has a wiki-based section with publicly editable pages on different graduate recruiters, but the jewel in its crown is the forums where students post their experiences and help guide others through the many different recruitment processes. I will look at wikijob.co.uk further in another post in the future.

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