Rassel Mohammed Islam
Batch: 142, ID: 142-71-812-004
Knowledge management is fundamentally about making the right knowledge or the right knowledge sources (including people) available to the right people at the right time. Knowledge sharing is therefore perhaps the single most important aspect in this process, since the vast majority of KM initiatives depend upon it. Knowledge sharing can be described as either push or pull. The latter is when the knowledge worker actively seeks out knowledge sources (e.g. library search, seeking out an expert, collaborating with a coworker etc.), while knowledge push is when knowledge is “pushed onto” the user (e.g. newsletters, unsolicited publications, etc).
Knowledge sharing depends on the habit and willingness of the knowledge worker to seek out and/or be receptive to these knowledge sources. The right culture, incentives, and so on must therefore be present.
|Explicit knowledge||Tacit knowledge|
|Characteristics||Codified knowledge found in documents, database, etc. Easy to share, modify, and copy.||Intuitive, knowledge rooted in context & practice. Difficult to articulate, share, modify, and copy|
|Management||Organize, categorize, refine, & share||Common practice, mentoring, apprenticeships, project teams, informal networks, chaos, etc.|
|Use of IT||Very useful for storage, transfer, and combination||Moderate-with careful implementation|
Explicit Knowledge and Knowledge Sharing
Successful explicit knowledge sharing is determined by the following criteria (Bukowitz and Williams 1999):
- Articulation: The ability of the user to define what he needs.
- Awareness: Awareness of the knowledge available. The provider is encouraged to make use of directories, maps, corporate yellow pages, etc.
- Access: Access to the knowledge.
- Guidance: Knowledge managers are often considered key in the build-up of a knowledge sharing system (Davenport & Prusak 2000, Gamble & Blackwell 2001). They must help define the areas of expertise of the members of the firm, guide their contributions, assist users, and be responsible for the language used in publications and other communication material. This is so as to avoid an information/knowledge overload.
- Completeness: Access to both centrally managed and self-published knowledge. The former is often more scrutinized but takes longer to publish and is not as hands-on (and potentially relevant). Self-published information on the other hand runs the risk of not being as reliable.
Tacit Knowledge Sharing
Sharing tacit knowledge requires socialization. This can take many different forms. Davenport & Prusak (2000) outline a few relevant factors:
- Informal networks, which involve the day to day interaction between people within work environments are considered very important
- Unlike the formalized structure of the firm, these networks span functions and hierarchies. They are therefore difficult to identify and monitor.
- Management should support these networks by providing the means for communication. Japanese firms have created talk rooms where employees can engage in unstructured, unmonitored discussions. A specific location is useful but not mandatory – this process also occurs in cafeterias etc. Management must simply provide the means for employees to foster informal networks and “trade” tacit knowledge.
- Management must also understand the value of chaos. This refers to the value of unstructured work practices that encourage experimentation and social interaction. Within a more chaotic environment, individuals are given the freedom to solve problems creatively and, in so doing, must tap into and evolve their social networks. This is closely linked to the notion of theory in use vs espoused theory. The value of less structured work environments is also well known within innovation management.
Embedded Knowledge Sharing
Embedded knowledge can be shared when the knowledge from one product or process is incorporated into another. Management must understand what knowledge is locked within those sources, and they must transfer the relevant parts into a different system. To do this, Gamble and Blackwell advocate the use of:
- Scenario planning: The practice of creating a set of scenarios and hypothesizing how they might unfold by drawing upon the perspectives of experts, the firm’s knowledge asserts, and so on.
- After action reviews: “is a structured review or de-brief process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better” (wikipedia).
- Management training
To facilitate knowledge sharing, KM must understand the requirements of the users, as well as the complexities and potential problems with managing knowledge and knowledge sources. Very broadly speaking, management must therefore implement the right processes, frameworks, and systems that enable knowledge sharing. They must also foster a knowledge sharing culture that ensures that these investments are fully utilized.