Do you know that companies who apply knowledge management, on average, increase their efficiency in productivity as well as strengthen their innovative capabilities by a higher-than-average rate?
Wouldn't it be great if you could help push your company ahead of the competition by making a few operational changes?
Is it crazy to think that there's an easy six-step process that can help you with the changes needed to be ahead of the competition?
Well, that's what knowledge management is all about. In this article, we'll show you exactly how it can help, but before we do, let's briefly touch on what knowledge is, as it relates to a businesses.
What is Knowledge?
Knowledge, as it applies to organizations, can be divided into two main categories: explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is the type of knowledge that can easily be documented in written form, stored in a database, and share as well as transferred to others. Examples of this type of knowledge include:
Tacit knowledge on the other hand is the type of knowledge that is difficult (but not impossible) to document. This is because tacit knowledge is based on personal experiences and is context-specific. This type of knowledge is not easy to articulate which therefore makes it difficult to codify. Examples of this type of knowledge include:
- Leadership skills
- Body language interpretation
- Emotional intelligence
The more tacit knowledge that can be turned into explicit knowledge, the more knowledge capital that your business is able to leverage.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management (KM) is, in technical terms, a systematic method in which an organization or team creates and applies company knowledge to reach their goals. In other words, it’s the constant improvement of critical knowledge within a company to which, in its turn, is available to anybody who might need it. It gives room for partnerships to bloom and its workers to use their creative minds to their fullest.
Knowledge management is able to help organizations with achieving these goals because it helps with capturing both explicit and tacit knowledge.
According to research done in Germany between the years 2000 and 2002, the companies that applied KM to their systems showed an almost immediate increase in economic success with a constant grow in productivity between the companies and their employees. Again, that was a decade ago – knowledge management works even more now.
You can do this too. The image below will give you a rough idea on how it works.
Knowledge Management Process
Let’s now break down the knowledge management process into six steps according to the image above:
This goes for your relevant data. And the keyword is ‘relevant’. Including anything else that may be considered irrelevant to your KM can merely disrupt the accuracy of your knowledge.
First and foremost, there should naturally be a team of ‘data-collecting people’ in your circle that will follow and document the relevant data in the process.
The bottom line is that you choose what data you consider to be relevant to your resulting knowledge.
Now it’s time to take all the amount of data and organize it appropriately. Again, this goes by the criteria that you and your company have created for the data collected.
You decide what categories to create accordingly for what data and then you place that data in respective category. When the data has been categorized, it ceases to be merely ‘data’. . . it now becomes information.
With the information categorized and put in logical order, we now need to shift focus to what is most important within the information and how we can extract its essence. We do this by ‘summarizing’ its core into a certain form.
This is also a matter of choice from you and your company. Lovely, isn’t it? You can summarize it by any means you consider more plausible, such as the usage of charts, software packages, or other techniques.
It is recommended here too, that you have a group of people that specialize in analyzing the summarized information.
Their job would be to notice patterns and relationships between the information. How do the information findings relate to one another? How do they affect each other?
Once the key questions of such kind have been answered, your team should sit down and write conclusive reports about the findings. Are the findings useful? What can this information be used for? How helpful is it estimated to be?
Just as data becomes information after being categorized – information now becomes what we call ‘knowledge’. The purpose of synthesizing is to take the analysis reports and create various concepts out of it based on the questions answered above.
How can these findings be used constructively within the company? Which areas of productivity can they strengthen? Who should have access to it?
The patterns analyzed are very useful in revealing how the behavior of one set of information can inflict another, and vice versa. This permits you to have a wide overview over the various causes and effects of the knowledge you just created.
Being now as effective and useful as it can be – it is time to store this knowledge in something we like to call a knowledge base.
This is a location online where the people who need the knowledge can have easy access to it. There are available softwares online for specifically helping you create such a base.
This step is very simple and straight-forward. Now that you have access to different types of knowledge that can be applied anywhere need be – it’s time to decide where exactly you want to put it to good use. This depends on the types of tasks and assignments that you have laid out for your employees.
Another useful question to be asked is: Can one type of knowledge be used for several areas in the field?
If, for example, you are dealing with a specific task in which you’ve used a type of knowledge for earlier – can you identify the relevance of the very same knowledge for the next task and apply it accordingly?
When you’ve answered these questions and decided where exactly you will want to implement your knowledge – it’s time to get to work!
Best Practices to Get Employees Excited About Knowledge Management
Though knowledge management sounds wonderful in theory, we are still missing the realistic aspect of how we can, in different ways, distribute it.
Your goal is to engage everybody in the positivity of KM in order to see how you can share it the best way. One way of doing this is for example creating a group e-mail list, whose purpose would be to share particular knowledge for anybody interested in that type of information.
This will activate the interest of those specific people who need quick access to that knowledge and they will always be kept up to date.
Another way, and arguably a more interesting way, would be to create communities of practice where employees can openly share knowledge. Or you can task one or more employees to be knowledge leaders to help with organizing and managing all of an organization's internal knowledge in a blog or internal wiki.
With an added and smooth search function, you can better enable employees to find the knowledge they need. This, of course, requires a bit of investment in the documents or articles written where you would put various tags and keywords related to what the person might be searching for in the future.
To further add on to the points above, most organizations will follow the 80/20 rule, which states that about 80% of people will search for 20% of the knowledge. That 20% is therefore important to define and put as a priority. These are key questions that absolutely need an answer in an easy-to-find way.
As you may have figured out, the best way of doing this is to create a FAQ Section for people to navigate through. This basically speaks for itself and it’s up to you to choose and cherry-pick your important questions that need answers.
What you decide to do and how you take it from here is entirely up to your standards of what is important and how you need it to be available. There are numerous other ways in which you can further spread the knowledge, but that goes beyond this article and is easily accessible on the web.
There are, however, a few more points said below if you don’t already feel motivated enough.
Why should you and your company use it?
This has already spoken for itself up until this point, but it never hurts to layout the resulting pros for the usage of KM:
- It serves customers well now that you are quicker in your decision making and know exactly where to implement your knowledge.
- It reduces cycle times. Everybody has more concrete access to useful knowledge and know exactly where to use it.
- Product development time greatly reduces. All the fuzzy and irrelevant knowledge is no longer a problem and you can focus solely on the areas that matter.
- Customer service improves. You now have more direct access to answers to questions.
- Improves the quality of communication between you and your employees. With everything outlined and ready to go, you and your employees are basically speaking the same language to each other when communicating and everybody knows exactly what to do at all times.
- It leaves more time to further innovate and develop a higher quality product now that all the other work is being dealt with much faster. Most importantly, you save a lot of money now that costs are dramatically reduced for everything above.
Frankly, is there a reason not to use knowledge management to your advantage? I can’t think of a single reason.
It will only do good for you, your company, your employees – and your customers. It’s all a matter of organizing yourself better and leaving less room for confusion and shallow work that will be nothing but time-consuming.
Think about all the possibilities you are left with when you have information that you know exactly what to do with and tasks that you hand out that your employees will know exactly how to deal with.
Knowledge management is best described as ‘productivity-heaven’ and should definitely be capitalized on for anyone who wants to do better!
We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on how you’ve incorporated knowledge management into your company! Please post in the comments below any tips or hacks you’ve been using it successfully