Tuesday, 13 November 2012


50 shades of knowledge management


color wheel The knowledge management world is large and complex, with many different understandings of what the term means, and what it encompasses.

Here is a first-pass map of the Knowledge Management Landscape, and some of the nooks, crannies, islands and archipelagos that make up the landscape.

Or if you prefer, the 50 shades within the KM rainbow.

Lets start down the data end, where the knowledge management landscape meets the border with data management. KM's interest in data comes from combining data through linked data, and looking for the patterns within data, though data mining, so that new insights can be gained. Where this is applied to customer data or business data, then we get into the analogous disciplines of CRM and Business Intelligence.

Next to data comes Information, where knowledge management is involved in several ways. For example the structuring of information, through taxonomies, ontologies, folksonomies, or information tagging. Or else the retrieval of information, where knowledge management encompasses enterprise search, and/or semantic search. Or the presentation of information, through intranets, or portals, supported by content management. The presentation of information, as well as the creation of explicit "knowledge objects" is an important component of call centre knowledge management, closely allied to the creation of customer knowledge bases, and knowledge based engineering is a discipline where engineering design is done based on knowledge models.

The creation of explicit knowledge is a significant part of the KM world, containing many shades of its own. Knowledge retention deals with capture of knowledge from retiring staff aka Knowledge Harvesting), lessons capture deals with learning from projects, as do learning histories based on multiple interviews, while learning interviewing

Another part of the landscape is the organisational learning corner. This abuts the border with learning and development, but is concerned with learning of the organisation, rather than learning of the individual. In this part of the KM world we find action learning, business-driven action learning, and lesson-learning, plus analogous disciplines such as e-learning, coaching, and mentoring.

Organisational learning abuts the area of knowledge transfer, where we look at dialogue-based processes such as peer assist, knowledge handover, knowledge cafe,  baton-passing, after action review, appreciative enquiry, and so on - processes that are focused on knowledge, but are closely allied to other meeting disciplines.

Knowledge transfer between people - the tacit area, or experience management, takes us into the area of networking. Here we find the communities of practice, the centres of excellence, the communities of interest, and the social networks. The latter, of course, is closely allied to social media - social media being the technology which supports social networks. Then we have storytelling, as a means of knowledge transfer, crowdsourcing, as a means of accessing  knowledge from a wide source, and collaboration as a sort of catch-all term (supported by collaborative technology).

There is a whole innovation area to KM as well - open innovation, creativity, deep-dives etc

The finally we have the more psychological end of knowledge management, where we have disciplines such as epistemology, sense-making, complexity theory, decision-making theory.

Plus of course the part of knowledge management that deals with the lone worker - personal knowledge management.

So there are our 50+ shades of knowledge management - if I have missed any, please let me know through the comments option!

There are few if any companies that work across the entire KM landscape. Here in the UK we have created the KAAS consortium, that seeks to address the full spectrum from data to information to tacit knowledge to experience management, but even there we may have left one or two little areas outside the coverage.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post Nick, it looks like a comprehensive overview. It would be great if this could be mapped into a diagram so that the various arms of knowledge management are presented as an info-graphic. This can then present knowledge management in a visual sense.

    What about the part of knowledge management that overlaps with communication. The packaging and communication of knowledge?

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    Replies
    1. Nice article. To present this graphically I'd be looking at a Mind Map, showing key nodes and the various aspects related to each. whilst these attributes all relate to KM they're not on a simple linear path from unrefined to refined.

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    2. Kevin,
      I had attempted to do just that a while ago and ended up with a map that merely groups related elements/aspects of KM, without trying to create strict linkages among them. http://barbarafillip.blogspot.com/2011/05/knowledge-areas-for-km-professionals.html.

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    3. Kevin,
      I had attempted just that a while ago with this map. It only groups related elements visually. It doesn't attempt to establish linkages as would be needed in a mind map.

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  2. Nice use of a growingly popular phrase.... Nice concept and reminds me of some work we did at KIN where we identified KM 140 approaches, which seem to be summarised here in your fifty...

    We also found a link / correlation between individual personal preferences and the approaches they favoured.

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