“Knowledge continuity is analogous to business continuity” (Dalkir, 2009, p. 3137).
Nonaka (1994) believes that social knowledge exists on both the individual and collective levels and is created by and fundamental to the collective actions of a group. Alavi and Leidner (2001) cite three common applications of knowledge management including the coding and sharing of best practices, the creation of corporate knowledge directories, and the creation of knowledge networks (p. 114). Knowledge creation and retention are incredibly valuable for organizations, particularly in the age of big data and highly varied employee turnover rates.
In consideration of the need to create and retain intellectual capital, it is important to note that knowledge includes various perspectives. These frames of reference distinguish knowledge as being (1) a state of mind, (2) an object, (3) a process, (4) a condition for accessing information, or (5) a capability (Alavi & Leidner, 2001). Although all of these perspectives are valuable viewpoints of knowledge, perhaps the most important is knowledge as a capability. Developing ways to “enhance intellectual capital by supporting development of individual and organizational competencies” is crucial (Alavi & Leidner, 2001, p. 111). I believe that viewing knowledge as a capability contributes more to the pragmatic knowledge of an organization. A repertoire of best practices is handy to have in a pinch.
Planning and implementing ways to manage organizational knowledge contributes to sustainable shared meaning among organizational members. Developing practical systems for employees provides a database of organizational language and its uses. According to Hara (2009), “a common language not only indicates a shared comprehension of explicit knowledge (e.g., meaning of words), but also signifies the existence of tacit knowledge (e.g., metaphors and values)” (p. 14).
Establishing a knowledge management system (KMS), which is an information technology-based system “developed to support and enhance the organizational processes of knowledge creation, storage/retrieval, transfer, and application” seems like a daunting task (Alavi & Leidner, 2001, p. 114). Several years ago, I worked for two of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States. Both organizations provided intranet access to vast information systems designed to help me perform my job duties. Even with these systems, I often consulted Google for help with technology issues for which I could not find answers. Individual, procedural knowledge was crucial in helping me to resolve customer issues. My gargantuan corporate system just didn’t have what it takes. That said, if a hugely successful tech company doesn’t have all the knowledge needed to sustain employee success, what does this mean for smaller businesses?
Hansen, Nohria, and Tierney (1999) offer a codification (people-to-documents) versus a personalization (person-to-person) perspective in What’s Your Strategy for Managing Knowledge? It seems as if codification was the strategy in my prior experiences, but what of personalization? The personalization approach is a way to transfer knowledge that cannot be codified into “brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations” (Hansen, Nohria, & Tierney, 1999, p. 2). Personalization seems more appropriate than codification for smaller businesses or those with more innovative organizational structures. Nevertheless, these authors offer several questions organizations must address before deciding to adopt a specific strategy.
In addition to organizational size, other considerations must be made in the decision-making process of KMS development. Chalmeta & Grangel (2008) propose a five-phase methodology for organizations considering adopting and developing a Knowledge Management System. This proposal is thorough and helpful in adopting best practices; however, the authors acknowledge limitations such as organizational culture and the type of stakeholders involved with the organization.
In my future as a member of many communities of practice, I foresee further challenges in how to manage intellectual capital. I base this prediction on the fact that I currently struggle with managing shared Dropbox folders. Nonetheless, I know that my intellectual contributions and those of my colleagues are an important product of education and hard work. In the words of Dalkir (2009), “these tangible by-products need to flow from individual to individual, between community of practice (CoP) members and, of course, back to the organization itself, in the form of lessons learned, best practices, and corporate memory” (p. 3131).
Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. E. (2001). Knowledge management and knowledge management systems: Conceptual foundations and research issues. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 107-136. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3250961 (Links to an external site.)
Chalmeta, R., & Grangel, R. (2008). Methodology for the implementation of knowledge management systems. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(5), 742-755. doi:10.1002/asi.20785
Dalkir, K. (2010). Knowledge management. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (3rd Ed.). doi:10.1081/E-ELIS3-120043816
Hansen, M. T., Nohria, N., & Tierney, T. (1999). What’s your strategy for managing knowledge. Harvard Business Review. URL: http://consulting-ideas.com/wp-content/uploads/Whats-your-strat-art.pdf (Links to an external site.)
Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14-37. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/2635068