By Dr. Claire McInerney
What is knowledge management? One definition says, “Knowledge management (KM) is an effort to increase useful knowledge within the organization. Ways to do this include encouraging communication, offering opportunities to learn, and promoting the sharing of appropriate knowledge artifacts.” (McInerney, p. 1014)
Knowledge management belongs to many disciplines, but is owned by none. Researchers and practitioners from the fields of Management, Communication, Information Science, Human Resources, Organizational Science, and Education have been investigating how learning and interaction create new knowledge in an organizational context with more intensity in recent years. In an information age knowledge workers need tools and guidance to manage the vast amounts of data and information that are so available and are the foundations on which knowledge is built. Some see ‘knowledge management’ as an odd turn of phrase, since knowledge resides in the person and is more process than thing, however, most would admit that continuous learning and effective knowledge sharing are certainly benefits to any work group. The term ‘knowledge management’ includes all activities that can encourage learning and knowledge development such as the creation of ‘communities of practice’ within an organization where those who have similar interests can meet, learn from each other, and discuss topics of mutual interest.
Two works rise to the top of “must read” lists in the field of knowledge management: Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know by Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak (1998, Harvard Business School Press) and The Knowledge Creating Company by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi (1995, Oxford University Press). The Davenport and Prusak book is a down to earth look at what knowledge management means in everyday work situations, and it is filled with anecdotes, examples, and case studies based on the authors’ experiences and research in many business and government venues. The Nonaka and Takeuchi work provides an in-depth discussion of a theory of knowledge management and explains how organizations can adapt structures and strategies to increase innovation and knowledge development among employees. Most of the examples come from Japanese companies, but the lessons learned can be applied to organizations in the US and other countries.
Many accessible articles exist on the topic of knowledge management on Internet websites, and they serve the purpose to inform the lay public. A good way to get a snapshot of knowledge management as seen by scholarly academic researchers (including two current Rutgers professors), though, is to read the special issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST, volume 53, number 12) that was devoted to KM. David C. Blair’s article “Knowledge Management: Hype Hope, or Help?” is particularly well-written and instructive for anyone interested in the topic. JASIST is available on the Rutgers University libraries’ website, electronic journals section:
Rutgers University Libraries Journal Index
McInerney, C. (2002). Knowledge Management and the Dynamic Nature of Knowledge. Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 53 (12), 1009-1018.
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