Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two big challenges of knowledge management

"when a person joins an organisation he/she is obligated by the terms of employment to use and share the knowledge in his possession for the benefit of the organisation"

Knowledge is central to the success of a business. But then knowledge acquired (recruiting people) does not automatically translate into knowledge shared or in use. People, the carriers of knowledge, rarely volunteer to share their knowledge to the greater good of the organisation. Some people (viz., owners) treat this as a betrayal. This kind of thinking hardly helps the situation and knowledge further retreats into the shell.

Knowledge acquired is not knowledge shared and used

Knowledge gained from schools pares in comparison to knowledge gained out of experience. It takes quantum leaps with exposure to work environment, people, situations, challenging positions, problem solving, failures etc. A person starts at say K0 and travels upwards to Kn. This gain in knowledge helps people to establish themselves firmly in an organisation and determine their career advancements, emoluments etc. Asking an employee to share his knowledge for the common good, without proper systems to facilitate it, is tantamount to asking him to lower his guards. Just like a company that wants to grow, every individual wants to grow. How many companies are willing and volunteering to share their knowledge for the greater good of the industry or economy and run the risk of blunting their competitive edge? There may not be an agreement to that effect, one may argue, but the case is similar when the context shifts to employees and an organisation. A worker cannot machine a component if the lathe is not there. Likewise an employee cannot be expected to share knowledge voluntarily if knowledge assisting and supporting systems are not in place.

Knowledge captured is not knowledge used

"We have a KM system in place and recently bought a KM Software to take care of it"

You may have heard those words from many CEOs and managers. The truth is you cannot buy a knowledge management system. A KM software is not the be all and end all of a KM system. It just is a part of a KM system. It serves a business as a means of storage and retrieval. To store, something has to be entered. Even in the case of 'explicit knowledge', if completely captured in the software, it has to be used by people.

If making one share knowledge is challenging enough, making another to use that knowledge is equally difficult. Quite a few things like ego (I can do better than him), lack of trust (What if he is wrong?) and lack of training & sophistication (How to use that software? Looks too cluttered. Where is what?) can come in the way of using knowledge in the public domain of an organisation.

Any business organisation that wants to harness its knowledge assets must successfully jump over two challenging hurdles and thereby
  • help people to share knowledge
  • make people to use the knowledge shared by others
To prepare to overcome these hurdles read the post 'When people will share and use knowledge? linked below.

I will be happy to have your feedback and know whether my posts are helpful.

Thank you.


baskar said...

very professional, Balajhi.

I feel i am not competent to comment, will be reading all this, though.


Joanne Friedman said...

Interesting beginning but in fact there is an even greater challenge - that is helping people to understand what knowledge actual is, how to create it, share it, and leverage it for competitive advantage. Unless senior management teams truly understand these things, they will continute to underuse a vital corporate asset.

N.Balajhi said...

Welcome Joanne.

Surely it's a big challenge to help people understand what is knoweldge, creating and sharing it. I touched upon two aspects of KM, sharing and using.

In my second article in this series 'When people will share and use knowledge' I mentioned 'direction' as one of the requisites for people to share knowledge. My next article on KM will be on setting the direction, where I will be covering the points you raised.

Unless senior management teams truly understand these things, they will continue to underuse a vital corporate asset.

Very true. Unfortunately even in this era where knowledge is gaining greater recognition, some companies fail to fully recognise and utilise there knowledge assets.

KM is a fascinating topic to discuss for the simple reason it depends on people to succeed. I will be posting more on this topic. Looking forward to your comments and views.

Anonymous said...

These are the three challenges I see:
1) transfering knowledge (better teachers, better learners)
2) time (no one has the time to do it, or learn how)
3) disliking teaching/mentoring.

I think the last two might be overcome if people saw great results from their efforts to teach/learn, but I know that in my organization there is no system in place to help senior people become better teachers, and junior people become better learners. Senior people know what they do in each situation, but dont know how to articulate why they do what they do, and how junior people can translate it into any other situation. Thoughts on any resources for this?

N.Balajhi said...


Transfer of knowledge concerns sharing and using knowledge. Regarding the time aspect, it will be a problem if KM is a stand alone system. You should attempt to integrate KMS with your business and management systems. When it becomes part of the work you do, it is much easier to share and use knowledge.

I will make a post attempting answers to your questions in the next 2 or 3 days. Please do give me your feedback on that.

N.Balajhi said...


Here is the link to my article addressing points raised by you.

Hope it helps. Please give me your feedback


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