Wednesday, 16 January 2013


The six ways of creating/acquiring knowledge


“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”~Lewis Carroll Here's an old but good insight, from Davenport and Prusak (that classic of the genre, first published in 1998).

 Davenport and Prusak give six ways of knowledge creation within a company (and by creation, they don't mean "creation from nothing" - they mean getting that knowledge in-house). There is a seventh, which they don't mention, which is knowledge theft - IP theft or industrial espionage - but of course that is illegal.

These six legal ways are

Purchasing the knowledge. The most effective way to get knowledge They say) is to buy it. A company can buy knowledge from another company, by using them as an outsource partner or a supplier, or by buying training, or they can hire individuals that have the knowledge. Or they can find a company they has the knowledge they need, and buy the company.

Renting the knowledge. This may be one of the most common ways of acquiring the knowledge - you bring in a consultant. Effectively you hire them to bring the knowledge in, and apply it in your context. Then once the problem is fixed, you don't need them any more. You hire knowledge every time you bring in a tradesman to service your boiler.

Dedicated resources to create knowledge. Here the company dedicates resources to knowledge creation. This could be an R&D department, or a thinktank, or the 20% of time that Google staff are reputed to have, to spend on innovative projects.

Fusion of existing knowledge into something new. Here you bring people from different parts of the company to work together on a project, or to collaborate  on a problem. This is the process that happens in Peer Assists and Knowledge Exchange.

Adaptation is a company response to changes in the environment, or to problems and disasters. The bigger the change, or the bigger the disaster, the greater the adaptation that is needed. This form of adaptation is the knowledge-creating process you see within Lessons Learned systems.

Networking is the final method for knowledge creation, which to me is really a type of fusion. This is the mechanism of Knowledge Creation within Communities of Practice.



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