by Dr Alan Eardley, Staffordshire University
The discipline of Knowledge Management (KM) includes a range of practices
used to identify, create, store and share knowledge within organisations. KM
was established as an academic discipline in 1995 and a number of university
courses and professional and academic journals have appeared to promote it.
Some organisations have devoted resources to KM initiatives, often linked to
or as a part of IT projects and more rarely linked to developments in
organisational strategy. KM programmes are held to be most effective when
aligned with organisational objectives such as performance improvement,
benchmarking, innovation and knowledge transfer or the development of
industrial collaboration. KM is frequently linked to Organisational Learning
(OL) although it is usually distinguished from OL by its focus on resources,
assets and 'flow-based' models.
Early KM technologies included intranet-based expertise locator and document
management systems. The rise of KM coincided with the development of
collaborative technologies (e.g. Lotus Notes®) and followed technological
developments in Information Management, in particular 'semantic' search and
retrieval technologies and the development of KM tools to support
communication within communities of practice (CoP). Social networking tools
(e.g. 'forums', 'blogs' and 'wikis') have been adopted to enable informal
knowledge creation and transfer through social networking. All of these IT
applications are limited by the fact that they rely on explicit (i.e.
textual and pictorial) knowledge transfer, whereas it is generally agreed
that the real challenge is to manage implicit (i.e. intellectual) knowledge.