Monday 20 April 2015

What exactly is a Knowledge Asset?

I have been having some interesting discussions recently about Knowledge Assets. What are they, and what do they look like?

royalty free image from Pixabay
"Knowledge Asset" is a loosely defined term, which means many things to many people. 

One viewpoint is that a Knowledge Asset is an area of knowledge, or a competence, which an organisation has.  Imagine an organisation that knows about constructing hospitals. You could say that this knowledge is an asset, and therefore they hold a "knowledge asset on hospital building". 

This knowledge asset could be tacit - held in the heads of the experienced engineers. It could be explicit - documented in manuals and guidance. It could also be embedded in the operational structures of the organisation; its job posts, its workflows, its procedures and so on.

Another viewpoint is that this knowledge only becomes an asset when it is well managed. Knowledge is unmanaged can be a liability rather than an asset, and unmanaged knowledge is at best a potential asset. 

It comes down to terminology, and in Knoco we have tended to use the second terminology. we believe that knowledge becomes an asset when it is managed.

So what does a managed knowledge asset look like?

A managed knowledge asset will contain two components, the tacit and explicit components.

The tacit component is represented by an asset manager (often called a practice owner, if the knowledge asset refers to an area of practice) supported by a set of subject matter experts and a community of practice, with succession planning and an effective Knowledge retention and Transfer mechanism.  The knowledge asset manager, with the aid of the community of practice, will be tasked with acquiring and maintaining the necessary knowledge, and applying this for maximum business gain. They will also maintain the explicit component of the knowledge asset.

The explicit component of a Knowledge Asset is a single set of documents, or a single document, containing compiled and validated guidance on a specific area of practice. Documented Knowledge Assets consist of guidelines and best practices, set within business context, often enlivened by stories from experience, and linked to people and more detailed documents for further detail, structured in such a way as to be of maximum use to the reader. They may also contain (or contain links to) standards, training materials, examples, templates, “tips and hints” and checklists.


Hendri Ma'ruf said...

I have been a keen reader on Nick Milton's blog. Almost every article of his practically confirms my virtue, belief, or knowledge. In a very rare occasion though, if I were to quote his statement I would add something (one word or one explanation), stressing that this is of my own opinion. Just like the term "asset manager." I would add "knowledge asset manager." I would explain to my audience that adding the word "knowledge" is only to distinguish it from the term "asset manager" as used in asset management. The purpose is to help those who have been exposed to financial terms grasp the difference.

Nick Milton said...

I think you are correct Hendri - the term "knowledge asset manager" could easily be applied to the "practice owner" role. The key point is for this person to realise that they are accountable for a very valuable corporate asset. Much as a financial asset manager delivers value through managing financial stocks and "putting money to work", so a knowledge asset manager delivers value through managing stocks of knowledge and "putting knowledge to work"

Hendri Ma'ruf said...

Thank you, Nick. A nice analogy.

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