Knowledge Matters » Definition of KM

Definition of KM

Knowledge Management is really about recognizing that, regardless of what business you are in, you are competing based on the knowledge of your employees.”

Cindy Johnson

Director, Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

Texas Instruments

Knowledge Management is the creation, capture, organization, sharing, and leveraging of valuable explicit information/knowledge in an organization (Note: it is recognized that KM can also capture tacit knowledge (turning it into explicit knowledge) but it is primarily used for explicit information; tacit knowledge will be addressed under Knowledge Transfer.

Explicit Knowledge is articulated knowledge, expressed and recorded as words, numbers, codes, mathematical and scientific formulae, and musical notations. Explicit knowledge is easy to communicate, store, and distribute and is the knowledge found in books, on the web, and other visual and oral means.

The gathering and capture of explicit information/knowledge involves the use of information systems to codify, capture and retrieve information (i.e. information that is recorded on paper or electronic media).

Knowledge that is accumulated from the outside is shared widely within the organization, stored as part of the company’s knowledge base, and utilized by those engaged in developing new technologies and products. The process of shifting knowledge from the outside to the inside, or inside to the outside, is called knowledge conversion.

Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995)

For the purpose of this study, the emphasis will be on helping employers understand the importance of KM to ensure that it is accessible to both existing and new employees. This could be in the context of regulatory requirements, clients/stakeholders, legacy systems, data repositories (e.g. corporate policies), etc.

The key KM activities are capturing, organizing, providing access, maintaining KM repositories and resources, and the use and development of technology. Capturing explicit and tacit knowledge is a KM activity that enables the recording and representation of tacit knowledge in explicit form. A related KM activity is organizing the knowledge which requires classifying and categorizing knowledge for navigation, storage and retrieval purposes (Russel, 2001). A more detailed overview of KM activities can be found in Further Reading.