Where is wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (T.S. Eliot)
T.S.Eliot, the renowned, English editor, playwright and poet of the late nineteenth and half of the twentieth century, has very tactfully tried to realize the people of the importance of knowledge management.
Right from the evolution of the mankind, human beings have found themselves in the search of knowledge. The purpose for this may however differ from person to person and generation to generation. In the pre-historic era, the mankind had the thirst for knowledge in order to make their daily affairs convenient and satisfy their desire to do the work differently. For example, as a recorded tradition in different Abrahamic religions, it is said that when one of the sons of Adam killed the other, he learnt from the nature that what to do with the dead body. Moving further, when mankind decided to search for the ways to feed themselves, other than hunting, it was actually their never satiating desire for knowledge that helped them in learning new ways. Thus we can say that one of the important factor of the advancement and continuous evolution of the human civilization is the continuous enhancement of knowledge. However, it must be noted that the purpose to acquire knowledge has been drastically changed. Now, besides the purpose stated earlier, the knowledge acquisition is also aimed for the self-growth and intellectual development. (Ground et. al, 2003)
However, by the passage of time, as the ways to store information or knowledge improved, the volume of knowledge started to grow exponentially. With this change in the arena of the knowledge, the focus shifted from merely its acquisition to its management as well as implementation. This shift in focus was not restricted to any one discipline, rather this wave of change was across the board, thus affecting al the discipline. However, the intensity varied from field to field. Among these, the business arena experienced the remarkable influence of this concept. As result of such a great significance of knowledge management, a number of Business Information Systems have been developed to cater the preservation of the knowledge in its various forms and types.
This paper is intended to identify various types of knowledge and different knowledge management business information systems. To do so, we would start with exploring various definitions of marriage. Moving further, we would investigate deeply into various classifications of knowledge. It would be followed by the strategies to convert one type of knowledge into another as well as preservation or digitization of each type of knowledge. Once the major types of knowledge are indentified, we would move to the second part of our thesis that is Business Information Systems related to knowledge management. The focus is on the approach, rather than some particular system. Therefore, for this part of the report, we would start with the systematic approach to knowledge management. First of all, we will see what knowledge management is. Then we will look into the purpose of knowledge management initiatives. Afterwards, the steps to implement any BIS intended for knowledge management would be discussed, followed by the barriers to do so. Last but not the least, some common BIS would be discussed along with their key features.
WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE?
There is no single agreed definition of the term ‘knowledge’. This is probably not out of ignorance to the subject, rather an exhibition of the diversity in the ways people approach knowledge, create, store and disseminate it. Some people have defined it philosophically, some have defined it religiously, while some define it in the context of their own readings and work experience.
According to John Locke (1689), knowledge has been defined in his book BOOK IV. Of Knowledge and Probability. “An Essay: Concerning Human Understanding” in following words: Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas
Another tendency of defining knowledge is to correlate it with the experience:
“a) the condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association b) the condition of being aware of something c) the condition of apprehending truth or fact d) the condition of having information or of being learned”
The religious orientation brings another understanding towards ‘knowledge’. According to them, knowledge is: “is an ability to remember Scripture or have it supernatural quickened, or to know a fact or truth about a person or situation revealed directly by the Holy Spirit–sometimes termed a word of knowledge. [Bible Study on Knowledge.]”
Some other authors have defined it in their own way:
knowledge is what I know
information is what we know (Foskett)
A dictionary definition is a as follow:
Acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.
It was important to cite as much as possible different perspectives on knowledge, so that the reader can understand the concept of knowledge management and its application in the broader perspective.
However, the most comprehensive definition and the one applicable in our scenario is given by Bryan Burgeron in his book ‘Essentials of Knowledge Management’. It states that
Knowledge is information that is organized, synthesized, or summarized to enhance comprehension, awareness, or understanding. That is, knowledge is a combination of metadata and an awareness of the context in which the metadata can be applied successfully.
TYPES OF KNOWLEDGE
Like any other subjective phenomenon in the world of epistemology, the ‘knowledge’ has also been classified by different people differently. Some have classified it into two types, tacit and explicit, while others have classified it into three types, explicit, implicit and tacit. (Frappalo, 2006)
It refers to all that knowledge which is situated external to the human brain. This means that this is the knowledge that organization retains, even if the employees leave the organization, the knowledge remains with the organization. It is the documented knowledge that has been written down. The document management tools and techniques are used to manage explicit knowledge. These techniques may include the use of indexes, taxonomies, etc.
It is the knowledge that can be made explicit, even though it is not actually explicit. In simpler words, it is the knowledge that is although not written down, but can be written down. A great part of organizational knowledge is implicit in nature and thus requires knowledge management initiatives to convert that implicit into explicit one.
The implicit knowledge is there in the mind of the people. It can be saved in two ways:
1. Let the people share it with other people, so that implicit knowledge is with many other people. This is a simpler and less costly way, however, there is a compromise on risk if many people leaves the organization together, because, the knowledge is shared, yet it is implicit
2. The second way is to convert it into explicit one. This may be done through making people document that part of their knowledge that they can. However, it is very costly and difficult to implement.
It is the knowledge which is not explicit or implicit either. This means that this is something that cannot be documented. It is something that cannot be expressed in words. However, this knowledge can only be applied by the one who posses it. One of its very good example is described here.
For example, you know how to ride a bicycle. Your younger brother also wants to learn that. You apprehend that he might fall from bicycle, if he starts riding without learning completely. You do not want him to fall down. So you try to teach him each and everything that you knew about riding the bicycle. However, it is not possible to that even after so much teaching your younger brother start riding without falling down. Although your teaching would help him somehow, but not totally. This is because the tacit knowledge you had that you gathered would not transfer to your younger brother. This shows that the part of knowledge that is not transferable to implicit or explicit medium is the tacit one. However, some authors have merged the tacit and implicit one. (Ground et. al, 2003)
The relationship of the three can be shown through following figure.
The above figure highlights two important points. The first point is that, the major part of our knowledge is tacit, quite smaller to is it implicit while smaller than rest is the explicit one. Another thing that it shows is that explicit knowledge can be created out of implicit one and implicit one can be created, to very little extent and great effort, into tacit one.
PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION OF KNOWLEDGE
Knowledge is considered as the asset for any organization. Like any other asset, this intellectual asset needs to be preserved, retained and shared across the organization to make the most of it. However, it is not something tangible. Therefore, it requires a number of strategies to convert each type of knowledge into another. (Rumizen, 2001)
One of the best model for the conversion of one type of knowledge into another is the one provided by Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995). However, it must be noted that to them, implicit and tacit are same, thus they talk about explicit and tacit only.
According to this model, there are four strategies of knowledge conversion; each of it is suitable in different situation. These strategies are as follows:
When any tacit part of knowledge is tried to convert into the explicit part, it is usually done through externalization. This means that practically doing something and then trying to describe the experience. For example, when a chemistry teacher has to teach some experiment to her students, she demonstrates it to students by doing it herself and also side by side telling the students that how to do, what care should be taken of, what should be avoided, what should be observed etc.
The process of internalization refers to converting some explicit knowledge into the tacit one. This is done by what Nonaka and Takeuchi call hearing and then believing it. This means that reading or hearing the explicit knowledge in form of some book (written literature), audio or audio visual literature or verbal literature (someone telling) and then doing it or internalize it through experiencing it oneself. This is the reverse side of previous example, when the Chemistry students read from a book or listen from some video demo or see the teacher doing and hearing her instruction and then do it themselves to learn how to carry out that experience, it would be internalization.
There are two more cases to knowledge conversion. These are basically knowledge transfer cases.
This strategy is used to convert some implicit knowledge from one possessor to a receiver. As the word socialization indicates, it involves people interacting and getting socialized. This means that watching something and then doing it. Usually the student internship programs are meant to achieve this objective. It is a well accepted fact that the books alone cannot provide all knowledge as no author can transcend all his experience into written form. Thus, in order to ensure that students also learn that unwritten part of knowledge, internship programs are designed to transfer implicit knowledge of the supervisor into the internee.
Combination is the strategy that is used to convert one form of explicit knowledge into another. This is done through finding explicit knowledge fragmented over various pieces of knowledge and then to consolidate it. This means that for example a student has to make a report on the sales trends in the Automobile Industry of US. What he usually does is go to various sources like internet, books, periodicals etc, find relevant information, jot them down and finally compile, consolidate and reconcile into a report, which is also a explicit form of knowledge.
In this second part of the report, we would explore what is the knowledge management (KM), how does BIS support it, how to implement the BIS for KM and what are the potential barriers for BIS for KM.
WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT?
As described earlier, in modern times, when we are flooded with the information, acquisition of knowledge is not an issue; rather the issue is to manage it. This gave rise to the concept of knowledge management. Knowledge Management is an umbrella to cover a broad range of tasks and operations done on the knowledge in order to gain the utility from it.
The question about the exact definition of knowledge management is comparatively lesser obscure than the term knowledge, specially when we restrict it to business setting only.
Barclay and Murray, the editors at Knowledge Praxis, define the Knowledge management as:
At Knowledge Praxis, we define knowledge management as a business activity with two primary aspects:
o Treating the knowledge component of business activities as an explicit concern of business reflected in strategy, policy, and practice at all levels of the organization.
o Making a direct connection between an organization’s intellectual assets — both explicit [recorded] and tacit [personal know-how] — and positive business results.
According to this definition, one of the main aspects of the knowledge management is its application.
Another definition by Bryan Burgeron is as follows:
“Knowledge Management (KM) is a deliberate, systematic business optimization strategy that selects, distills stores, organizes, packages, and communicates information essential to the business of a company in a manner that improves employee performance and corporate competitiveness.”
It must be noted from the above definitions that what the essentials of a practicing knowledge management system are. It must be intentional strategy with the focus to enhance the business performance. It constitutes selecting, refining, organizing and disseminating the information required for achieving the aim of improving on micro level, the employee’s performance and on macro level, the organization’s performance.
PURPOSE OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Usually an organization has knowledge in various forms. First and foremost of its knowledge asset is the expertise that its employees posses, their knowledge, their experience etc. The second knowledge asset is the employees best practices and third is its unique product formulae etc. (Walsham, 2002) Protecting its product formulae etc can be done through patents and copyrights. Secondly, best practices can be sustained through developing the Standard Operating Procedures manuals and circulating them in the organization. The most difficult part is to capture, maintain and share the employees’ knowledge. (Rumizen, 2001) It is an established fact that it cannot be done completely. However, some part of it can be captured. Thus, the overall purpose of knowledge management systems initiative in an organization is to ensure that organizational knowledge sustains over the period of time, no matter who joins or leaves, the business must go on smoothly.
ROLE OF IT IN KM
In order to achieve above mentioned objectives, a number of Business Information Systems can be used. Collectively these systems may be termed as knowledge management system. However, the knowledge management systems constitute of following BIS. (Walsham, 2002)
The common components of BIS intended for KM are:
Document Management Systems
A document management system is required to collect, compile, store and share all explicit knowledge or the implicit one converted to the explicit knowledge.
Business Intelligence (BI) / Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There are a number of data mining and other knowledge discovery tools that are used to convert data into knowledge, for example, deducing sales trend from sales data etc. These tools are collectively called Business Intelligence. (Garner, Staab and Tsui, 2000)
Another important part of the knowledge management system is the knowledge base. In simple terms, it is the database of all the organizational knowledge.
The KMS is also connected to various function BIS to gather data from those systems.
HOW KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT CAN BE IMPLEMENTED AND DEVELOPED IN AN ORGANIZATION.
Following are five steps that are crucial to the success of a KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT initiative:
1. The first part is to understand the key business drivers
2. After this is done, the next part is to get the executive sponsorship for the project
3. After this, there is a need to analyze the knowledge
4. It is also important to provide rewards and recognitions to people for contributing to the knowledge base
5. Last important thing is to implement it in phases, so that change resistance is minimal and can be handled efficiently. (Lee and Chen, 2007)
BARRIERS IN KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS AND KM THEORIES
The barriers related to KMS are as follows:
· BARRIERS RELATED TO TECHNOLOGY
o Legacy systems and incompatibility:
· BARRIERS RELATED TO ORGANISATION
o Lack of awareness of knowledge management strategies and instruments
o High investments
o Unavailability of individuals
o Different working times leading to lack of real time communication
· BARRIERS RELATED TO PEOPLE
o Different languages
o Fear of penalty/fear of losing profile
o Idea robbery
o Fostering established communication channels
To sum up, knowledge is one of the vital assets for any organization that needs to be preserved, leveraged, retained, maintained, upgraded and shared. To do so a number of strategies and business information systems are available that needs to be deployed carefully, keeping in view the type of knowledge to be captured as well as its business use.
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Frappaolo, C. (2006). Knowledge Management. x: Capstone.
Garner, B., Staab, S., & Tsui, E. (2000). The role of artificial intelligence in knowledge management. Knowledge Based Systems, 13(5), 235-239.
Lee, M., & Chen, T. (2007). Visualizing Trends in Knowledge Management. Knowledge Science, Engineering and Management, 10, 362-371.
Locke, J. (2001). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Books 1 and 2. Paris: Adamant Media Corporation.
Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.
Rumizen, M. (2001). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management (The Complete Idiot’s Guide). New York: Alpha.
Walsham, G. (2002). Knowledge Management: The Benefits and Limitations of Computer Systems. European Management Journal, 19(6), 599-608.