American Productivity and Quality Center

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The accumulation and use of knowledge is the foundation of human evolution and growth since its very beginning; however, systematic study of managing knowledge as organizational strategic resources or more precisely Knowledge Management (KM) has not been commenced and proliferated until recently. The term ‘Knowledge Management' was first introduces in 1986 by the American Productivity and Quality Center (Baker, 2002), and then it has been the much-discussed topic throughout the past years (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Davenport and Prusak, 1998; and Alberto, 2000). However, the lack of theoretical understanding of knowledge and practically proven methods for efficient KM is surprising (Holsapple, 2003).

Wiig (1999) defines KM as “the systematic and explicit management of knowledge-related activities, practices, programs and policies within the enterprise”, and there are multiple KM processes being identified: goal definition, identification, acquisition, development, distribution, application, maintenance and assessment of knowledge. Skyrme (1997) views KM is a purposeful and systematic management of vital knowledge along with its associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, diffusing, using and exploiting that knowledge. Davenport and Prusak (1998), claim that KM is the process of capturing, distributing and effectively using knowledge.

Drucker (1998) mentioned in his book, Managing in a Time of Great Change, that “knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant - and perhaps even the only - source of comparative advantage”, because knowledge is difficult to create and imitate (Peteraf, 1997; and Teece, 1998), and it has to be nurtured and managed (Maria and Marti, 2001). Senge (1990) has warned that many organizations are unable to transform and function as knowledge organization because of learning disabilities. With rapidly changes in technologies, the way information is created, stored, used and shared have made it more accessible and make the national borders are nearly meaningless in defining an organization's operating boundaries.

Explicit knowledge is easily formalized and documented (Hippel, 1994; and Duffy, 2000), and can be captured or shared through information technology. Explicit knowledge are usually expressed in the form of data and numbers, and can be shared formally and systematically in the form of data, specifications, manuals, drawings, audio and video, tapes, computer programs, patents, and the like. In contrast, tacit knowledge is difficult to express and formalize, and is thus difficult to share as it includes individual's insights, intuitions and bunches. Tacit knowledge resides in the human and is evolves from people's interactions, and requires skills and practices (Riggins and Rhee, 1999).

KM is a complicated and multifaceted discipline. Scholars, practitioners or researchers may take different perspectives and depth in analyzing the subject. Similarly, KM practitioners may take various approaches to tackle the KM problem. Therefore, the concepts of knowledge and knowledge management are best defined by the people who use them in respective areas.

In survey study on KM by Davenport, De Long and Beers (1998), 4 categories of KM processes are named by the participants:

  • Creation of knowledge repositories.
  • Improvement of knowledge access.
  • Enhancement of knowledge environment.
  • Management of knowledge as an asset.

These categories of processes can be further divided into sub-tasks. There are various KM frameworks or models and the KM processes will vary a bit. However, the ultimate goal of KM is to provide systematic management framework and methodology to manage the knowledge resources effectively and to sustain competitive advantages.

Nonaka and Konno (1998) articulated a well-known model for knowledge creation process - The SECI (Socialization, Externalization, Combination, Internalization) model that describes the ways knowledge is generated, transferred and re-created within organization. In summary, the SECI model as shown in Figure 2.4 identifies the following

  • Two forms of knowledge (tacit and explicit).
  • A dynamic and interaction space (transfer).
  • Three levels of aggregation (individual, group, context).
  • Four knowledge-creating processes: socialization, externalization, combination and internalization.

These four knowledge-creation processes are considered as the basic processes by which knowledge is created.

  1. Socialization: Individuals get together and share their experience about specific tasks, projects or processes in a free and open environment or atmosphere, and in such way the tacit knowledge of individuals is transformed into the tacit knowledge of groups.
  2. Externalization: Individuals talk about their experience on particular area or subject and as a consequence of collective reflection members come up with a new knowledge about the addressing area and thus the tacit knowledge is articulated and expressed into an explicit form.
  3. Combination: Many persons are working together and each contributes to a particular area of knowledge to make the whole set of knowledge a complete and comprehensive one through collaboration and sharing processes. In such case, the existing explicit knowledge of the individuals or teams is transformed into systematic knowledge, such as a set of specifications.
  4. Internalization: Explicit knowledge is transformed into tacit knowledge which is operational in nature. The individual acquires the specific skill and becoming proficiency in particular skill after repeating learning and doing.

The importance of a shared or interactive space for knowledge creating is suggested by Alavari and Leidner (2001). They proposed the existence of a shared knowledge space for knowledge facilitation and the applicable of IT for knowledge exchange purpose is questionable without the existence of such space. Many IT applications, particular the groupware applications and portal applications aim to facilitate these knowledge processes namely creation, application, distribution and storage processes etc. by creating virtual collaboration space, chat room, bulletin board etc. to facilitate communications amongst team members.

There are various KM models of frameworks that guide the practitioners to implement KM solution or conduct KM research work. These frameworks identify the key processes of KM as well as the various key influential factors or enablers for KM within the organization. These key processes and the critical influential factors interact dynamically within the framework and practitioners have to address these various parameters or processes while designing the KM systems to ensure effectiveness. Commonly identified enablers in KM models or frameworks include management, structure, culture, competence, motivation and reward, information technology, etc. Davenport and Prusak (1998) describe KM as involving organizational, human and technical issues, and technology is always an enabler for KM. The technologies will facilitate the various knowledge processes for the KM purpose, say application of knowledge, creation of knowledge, distribution of knowledge and storage of knowledge.

There are three fundamental elements within any KM framework, namely people, process, and technology. The KM problem is tackled from the perspective of a process organization and IT as considered as one of the prime enablers for KM process and related KM activities realization. IT support communication, cooperation and coordination, and allows timely access to information and the sources of knowledge, and is always considered as prime enabler. Knowledge process should consist of the following essential knowledge process as illustrated in the Figure 2.5. These processes are create, capture, organize, access and use. Almost every IT elements would implement these functions within the operating system level or through resources management utilities or applications. Similarly, the human interactive processes are collaborate, find, mediate, facilitate or share, etc. which allow users to manipulate the information.

Alavari, M. and Leidner, D. E., 2001. Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems: Conceptual Foundations and Research Issueses. MIS Quaterly, 25(1), pp. 107-136.

Alberto, C., 2000. How Does Knowledge Management Influence Innovation and Competitiveness?. Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(2), pp. 87-98.

Baker, K., Ed. 2002. Where Will Knowledge Management Take Us? Knowledge Management and Organizational Memories. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Davenport, T. H., DeLong, D. W. and Beers, M. C., 1998. Successful Knowledge Management Projects. Sloan Management Review, 39(2), pp. 43-57.

Davenport, T. H. and Prusak, L., 1998. Working Knowledge - How Organizations Manage What They Know. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts.

Drucker, P., 1998. Managing in a Time of Great Change. Peguin, Putnam, New York.

Duffy, J., 2000. Knowledge Management: To Be Or Not To Be? Information Management Journal, 34(1), pp.64-67.

Hippel, E., 1994. Sticky Information and The Locus of Problem Solving: Implications for Innovation. Management Science, 40(4), pp. 429-439.

Holsapple, C. W., 2003. Handbook on Knowledge Management. Springer, Berlin.

Maria, J. and Marti, V., 2001. Intellectual Capital Benchmarking System. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 2(2), pp.148-164.

Nonaka, I. and Konno, N., 1998. The Concept of "Ba". Building a Foundation of Knowledge Creation. California Management Review, 40(3), pp.40-45.

Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H., 1995. The Knowledge-Creating Company. Oxford University Press, New York.

Peteraf,M. A., 1997. The Cornerstone of Competitive Advantage: A resource-based View. Strategic Management Journal, 14(1993), pp.179-191.

Riggins, F. and Rhee, H., 1999. Developing The Learning Network Using Extranets. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 4(1), pp. 65-83.

Senge, P. M., 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. Doubleday, New York.

Skyrme, D., 1997. Knowledge Management: Making Sense of an Oxymoron. Management Insight, 22.

Teece, D. J., 1998. Capturing Value from Knowledge Assets. The New Economy, markets for Know-How, and Intangible Assets. California Management Review, 40(3), pp.55-79.

Wiig, K. M., 1999. Introducing Knowledge Management Into The Enterprise. Knowledge Management Handbook, CRX Press, Boca Raton, pp.1-41.


Knowledge management is still a nascent organizational practice, so as of yet there is no agreed upon definition for it. Therefore, it is generally described as broadly as possible, such as the following specified by Prusak: KM is “any process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever it reside, to enhance learning and performance in organizations” (Prusak, 1997). Knowledge does not simply “exist” - it begins as raw facts and numbers. When put into context, this data becomes information, such as the content of documents or records in a database. This information becomes knowledge only after it is combined with experience and knowledge (Kidwell et al, 2000).

The goal of KM in the organization is to allow businesses to improve how knowledge within an organization is used and shared. Learning institutions are in the business of knowledge, so it seems that learning institutions would benefit immensely from participating in KM activities. At the Knowledge Management in Education Summit in 2002, the participants agreed that KM practices provide important benefits for educators, including better work processes, improved curriculum, and above all else, positive student outcomes (Petrides, 2003). In an educational environment, part of understanding work practices involves understanding the social landscape. An effective KM tool designed for educators will attempt to address problems (where appropriate) within the social structure. It is easy to overlook the true beneficiaries of KM in education - the students - since implementing effective knowledge management tools in learning institutions relies heavily on positive teacher outcomes. It is important to stress to teachers that by participating in KM activities and using KM tools, teachers have the potential to improve both the curriculum and their effectiveness as educators, which ultimately benefits the students.

Tools, regardless of their application, are imbued with knowledge (Baetier, 2000). Tools are designed to accomplish a task, and therefore the knowledge required to accomplish this task is captured within the tool through its design, such as the optimum handle length of a hammer (Baetier, 2000). Computer-based knowledge management tools carry this idea further in that they contain both implicit and explicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge is imbued within the tool by anyone who helped design the tool, while explicit knowledge is stored within the tool by the tool's users (Baetier, 2000).

Training and education activities are informed by various theories of learning. Constructivists view the learner as actively constructing new knowledge drawing upon pre-existing information and past experiences. As experience is gained and knowledge is built, learning opportunities produce new concepts or ideas (Maughan and Anderson, 2005). Traditional industry and learning institution curricula tend to treat content in an abstract or formal epistemological fashion independent of applications or work settings. KM in the support of task performance must be derived from the activity and involves identifying and capturing knowledge, indexing knowledge, and making knowledge available to users in flexible and useful ways (Siemens, 2004).

Emerging KM practices are based partly on recent cognitive science understandings of human capabilities, such as conceptual blending and concepts for learning. KM should enhance individual, group and organizational learning, improve information circulation and even support innovation. It aims to capture and represent an organization's knowledge assets to facilitate knowledge access, sharing and reuse. The management of knowledge requires the ability to describe, organize and apply relationships.

     At the core of KM is the desire to identify and share knowledge that may not otherwise be found and shared, such as tacit knowledge residing in a single individual or an organization's grey literature usually accessible to only a few of its members. The theory behind knowledge management practice is that knowledge is not an end into itself. When information and knowledge flow can be captured, organized and made accessible for reuse, there exists the potential for subsequent creation of new knowledge (Williams, 2004). The most common used process of knowledge manipulation are capturing, storage and distribution. People use different types of repositories and specialists implement different technologies for organization of knowledge collectors, storage and delivery on demand. The purpose of the process is to improve qualification and to achieve better result.

     There is a strong relationship between knowledge and libraries. Material stored in libraries contains knowledge and to make this material available is the primary aim of DL. KM and DL could be aligned because they share a similar focus that is to enhance human knowledge. They are also looking for ways to categorize and store knowledge. DL has the potential to facilitate KM functions by enabling barrier-free access to materials and incorporating structured and unstructured information in a way that precipitates knowledge discovery (Rydberg-Cox, 2000).

When evaluating research about DL for learning purposes and knowledge sharing across organizations, it is clear that KM and DL for learning purposes could be more aligned. Reasons for this integration include:

  • DL for learning purposes and KM share a similar focus: how to enhance human knowledge and its use within organizations. Both DL for learning purposes and KM are looking for ways to categorize and share knowledge.
  • There is a growing awareness of the fact that knowledge in an organization is distributed among its people's minds and a variety of knowledge artefacts.

Both content management and learning management systems are defined to store knowledge or learning/course components, often at an object level. Because of this, not only KM may fuse with learning management. In the vendor market, there is an increasing demand to content management system to grow closer to learning management system.

     The APQC defines content management as follows: “a system to provide meaningful and timely information to end users by creating processes that identify, collect, categorize and refresh content using a common taxonomy across the organization. A content management system includes people, process, technology and the content itself”.

     The increasing demand to compress the time to develop content for DL initiatives and for more targeted or personalized learning through the use and repurposing of standard based learning objects leads to a quicker unification of concepts and systems. Key issues are:

  • Setting priorities for the investments in KM, learning management and content management, resulting in a holistic approach of intellectual capital management.
  • Developing and managing individuals, competencies and communities.
  • Describing, classifying and managing unstructured content.
  • Creating and managing activities aimed at transferring knowledge to individuals (communities within an organization and putting knowledge to work).

When learning management systems are designed to store course components on the object level, in a central repository, the learning management system grow closer to content management systems available. This opens the doors to single sourcing solutions, managing content throughout an organization.

     Sumner and Marlino (2004) have introduced the knowledge network model that can benefit educational DL in how libraries and library communities:

  • Accommodate and support different types of participant interactions, both human and technology-mediated.
  • Foster knowledge building and community development through specific forms of interactions.
  • Enable participants to choose varying thresholds of entry and ongoing participation.
  • Support participants to make use of captured interactions to inform their current activities.
  • Affect participants' views of themselves, their knowledge and skills, and their changing role in the community.
  • Grow and sustain themselves.

Predicting the future of a huge and fast-changing area like DLs is a difficult task. However, DLs will no doubt play a key role in creating a perfect information management environment or, as the new terminology has it, a KM environment. KM is the new buzzword, in corporate as well as government sectors. In KM terms, organizational knowledge may be divided into tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge and cultural knowledge (Choo, 1998a, 1998b, 2000). Implicit in this suggestion in the important idea that knowledge is not just an object or artefact, but also the outcome of people working together, sharing experiences and constructing meaning out of what they do. DLs can play a significant role in achieving this goal.

Keeping these broad objectives in view, Rowley (1999) comments that KM is concerned with the exploitation and development of the knowledge assets of an organization with a view to furthering the organization's objectives - the knowledge assets to be managed include explicit, documented knowledge and tacit, subjective knowledge. DLs, with the major objective of making digital information - local as well as remote and distributed servers - accessible to everyu user in the community, can play a key role in KM in any organization. In future all organizations will need to have mechanisms for gaining easy access to local as well as global information. In order to create a knowledge-based environment, organizations should also build mechanisms for capturing information on local expertise.

Choo, C. W., 1998a. Information Management For The Intelligent Organization: The Art of Scanning The environment, 2nd Ed. Information Today, Medford.

Choo, C. W., 1998b. The Knowing Organization: How Organizations Use Information To Construct Meaning, Create Knowledge, and Make Decisions. Oxford University Press, New York.

Choo, C. W., 2000. Working With Knowledge: How Information Professionals Help Organisation Manage What They Know. Library Management, 21(8), pp. 395-403.

Rowley, J., 1999. What Is Knowledge Management? Library Management, 20(8), pp. 416-420.

3. Prusak, L., 1997. Knowledge in Organizations. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

4. Kidwell, J.J., Linde, V., Karen, M., Johnson and Sandra, L., 2000. Applying Corporate Knowledge Management Practices in Higher Education. Educause Quarterly, 4.

6. Petrides, L.A., Nodine, and Thad, R., 2003. Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape.

17. Baetjer, H.J., 2000. Capital as Embodied Knowledge: Some Implications for the Theory of Economic Growth. Review of Austrian Economics, 13, pp. 147-174.

Maughan, G.R. and Anderson, T., 2005. Linking TQM culture to traditional learning theories.

Journal of Industrial Technology, 21(4), pp. 2-7.

Siemens, G., October 2004. Categories of eLearning. Available From: [Accessed 16 July 2009].

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