Knowledge Management – a little bit of background

“Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival, and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change…. Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data andinformation processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” (quote)

I have been working with Knowledge Management (KM) since the mid ’80s when the concept began to be accepted in the UK. For my Ph D thesis I traced the information flows in the biotech firm where I worked (Longitudinal study – covered 5 years) . Not only the flows, but also where information was found, who used what and how. This thesis is already a historical document. KM has, like all relevant theories and systems, developed, focused and branched into several different aspects.The theory of KM is probably not of much interest to most readers of this blog (those who are probably already familiar with KnowledgeBoard and the Brint KM Network, but the use of KM to actually show an impact on the bottom line – that should be of interest to everyone who runs a business – no matter how small.  The wonderful wikipedia  provides a great deal of  KM background information for those who are interested.

My thesis falls broadly into “second generation KM” .

First generation KM concentrated on the identification and ‘capture’ of information. The advance in technology meant that storage and retrieval of information became easier. Mind you, compared to today’s fantastic technology and search facilities, it was extremely difficult – setting up the system, collecting and inputting the required information and retrieving it, required quite a lot of training and perseverance.

Second generation KM focused on people – the generators and users of information rather than just the technology. This aspect I still find fascinating – how new ideas are generated, how the theories are tested, how the information is used. This second generation KM has given rise to a great many KM aspects – contents management, document management, knowledge transfer to mention just a few – we were already at this time moving towards Communities of Practice, networking etc. At the same time, organisations began to alter their management style – less mandatory, less hierarchical, more open (well at least in theory as far as some companies were concerned!)

I have just found a list of active KM blogs – wish I had found this sooner…there’s some really good and interesting stuff there. I will give more practical examples of Km in future blogs.