Friday, 8 April 2016

What is Knowledge Management like? An alternative to a definition.

Instead of defining KM from first principles, lets use some big data to characterise the topic.

The data come from LinkedIn again (as this is one of the few available global datasets which allows us to investigate KM as a discipline) and the investigation is into the clusters of skills-based topics, to see where KM sits in terms of analogous disciplines.

The answer is that KM sits with Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Sharing, Lessons Learned and Communities of Practice as a cluster of skills associated with project management, change management and leadership. It is loosely associated with organisational learning, and not really associated at all (in terms of LinkedIn skills affinity) with social media, social networking, and content management.  


LinkedIn screenshot of the Knowledge Management skill
If you click on a particular skill in LinkedIn, it shows you a range of interesting facts:

  • How many people on LinkedIn with that skill
  • The 10 most common associated skills, in order of appearance
  • The 10 organisations with most people having this skill
  • Where these people went to college.

I did an analysis last month about the 10 organisations with the most KM skills, but today am looking at the other associated skills.

I looked at KM, and also at 9 other similar skill areas or disciplines which you might associate with KM. I could find no skill area for "collaboration" on LinkedIn, only "collaboration solutions", and I could find no skill area for "Best Practice development". There are undoubtedly skills I should have included, so please fill in any gaps!

The answers are in the table below.

Discipline/skillNumber of people in LinkedIn with this skillTop 10 associated skills Companies that most employ this skill (summary)
Knowledge Management331,000Project mgt, management, change mgt, program mgt, leadership, research, strategic planning, business analysis, strategy, MS OfficeConsultancies, IT, Military
Social media14,500,000MS Office, customer service, public speaking, Excel, marketing, Word, PowerPoint, event planning, research, management

Mostly freelance
Social networking4,400,000Social media, customer service, MS Office, public speaking, event planning, marketing, social media marketing, leadership, PR, Excel

Overwhelmingly freelance
Content management943,000Social media, editing, copywriting, blogging, social media marketing, publishing, content strategy, copy editing, digital media, editorial

Freelance, publishing, various
Knowledge Transfer134,000Project mgt, management, research, change mgt, KM, leadership, MS Office, training, team leadership, strategic planning

Consultancies, IT
Knowledge sharing116,000Project mgt, management, KM, customer service, MS Office, leadership, team leadership, training, research, teamwork

Consultancies, IT, Military, World Bank

Lessons learned106,500Project mgt, project planning, change mgt, program mgt, management, risk mgt, process improvement, leadership, MS project, MS Office

Military, manufacturing, Oil, IT
Organizational learning46,000Org development, training, leadership dev, change mgt, leadership, coaching, management, workshop facilitation, performance mgt, training

Consulting, Oil 
Collaboration solutions26,000Management, cloud computing, project mgt, solution selling, leadership, unified comms, SAAS, enterprise software, sales, integration

Consulting, IT
Community of practice

23,000KM, project mgt, change mgt, management, program mgt, strategy, training, leadership, research, IMAid and Development, Consulting


Let's assume that similar disciplines have similar associated skills. Therefore the disciplines which have the most associated skills in common are most likely to be similar in the way they are approached and applied, in that they will be applied by people with similar skillsets.

The pictures below show the commonalities between the disciplines in their 1) top 5 skills, and 2) top 10 skills. So Knowledge Management and Communities of Practice have 5 out of 5 top skills in common (project management, change management, management, program management, and an extra point for knowledge management itself) and 8 out of the top 10 skills in common.  Knowledge Management and social networking, on the other hand, share only one top-10 skill (leadership).

I provide the two plots as a cross-check.


There is a strong clustering of common skills between KM, Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Sharing, Lessons Learned and Communities of Practice. Of this group, knowledge sharing shares the fewest common skills with the others.

Organizational learning and collaboration solutions are less well linked into this cluster.

Social media and Social Networking are linked to each other, but not really to anything else.

Content management, as the term is used in LinkedIn, is not associated with the KM cluster in terms of common associated skills (being associated mostly with editing), and is only very loosely with social media and networking.


None of this proves anything of course, but I think we can assert that there is a body of practice which covers a certain set of skills that seem to be held by a certain type of person, which we can put under a KM heading.  This body of practice can be variously called KM, Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge Sharing, Lessons Learned and Communities of Practice, and it is practiced by people with management skills (Project management, management, change management, program management, leadership, strategic planning, business analysis, strategy).

Currently this seems to be a different group of practitioners from those who practice what LinkedIn users call Content Management, Social Media or Social Networking. 

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