Thursday, June 5, 2008

Knowledge Management Theory and Practice

Last week I heard a presentation about knowledge management, which got me thinking

What is the theory and practice of Knowledge Management?

Year ago I thought Nonaka's Knowledge Creating Company provided the best answer with SECI model:

Socialization: the sharing of tacit knowledge between individuals through joint activities, physical proximity. (Must happen before I post to this blog)

Externalization: the expression of tacit knowledge in publicly comprehensible forms. (Happens as I post to this blog)

Combination: the conversion of explicit knowledge into more complex sets of explicit knowledge: communication, dissemination, systematization of explicit knowledge. (Happens also as I post to this blog, and as you read this blog)

Internalization: the conversion of externalized knowledge into tacit knowledge on an individual or organizational scale. Applying the explicit knowledge into actions, practices, processes and strategic initiatives. (Must happen at the same time as posting to this blog, otherwise learning by doing does not take place)

I was no longer sure if this SECI model is valid at the age of blogging. So I started looking for the theory and practice and found them from unexpected sources.

A friend of mine actually just made his PhD on "Exploring and Exploiting Knowledge". Yes, it is academic, but provides good overview of Knowledge Management theory. (You can download the 191 page pdf, 1,8 Mb here)

In my search of simplicity, I will use one of the definitions Era (Dr. Mäki to you) identified:

"Knowledge management is a process of knowledge creation, validation, presentation, distribution, and application. These five phases in knowledge management allow an organization to learn and reflect as well as unlearn and relearn, which are usually considered essential for the building, maintaining, and replenishing of core-competencies." (Bhatt, 2001)

As unexpectidly I found a perfect example of practice at SlideShare. Meet Jessica and her Web 2.0 based Knowledge Management system:

Studying a bit further, I found an abstract of an article I have no access to stating:

"Now, after 15 years Web 2.0 concepts seem to be an ideal fit with Nonaka's SECI approach opening new doors for more personal, dynamic, and social learning on a global scale by combination of formal and informal learning, knowledge management, and Web 2.0 concepts into one integrated solution.”

This actually proves that Nonaka’s model is still very valid. But I am still missing a good book about the topic.

Do you know any good business book about Knowledge Management?
One that you would recommend me - by commenting below or by email?

Do you have a Knowledge Management system?

How is knowledge created at your organization?

How is knowledge validated at your organization?

How is knowledge presented at your organization?

How is knowledge distributed at your organization?

How is knowledge applied at your organization?

Is there something you could learn from Jessica?


Samurai said...

Actually, I need to expand the definition of Knowledge Management a bit in order to ensure simplicity in the future.

"The real task of knowledge management is to connect people to people in order to enable them to share what expertise and knowledge they have at that present moment, given that cutting-edge knowledge is constantly changing. The solution is not to try to warehouse everything that one's workers have ever known."
Lang (2001)

Graham Durant-Law said...

I have a whole website devoted to knowledge management and what I call business network analysis - see .

If you look at this link - - you will find some peer reviewed papers on the TARDIS knowledge mangement system. This link - - will provide you with some presentations.

Actually I don't like the term knowledge mangement, because these days it is a tainted term. I much prefer the term knowledge productivity.

Regards Graham

era said...

Hi Samurai,

I’m glad (and also surprised) you found my dissertation from the web. I agree with Graham that “knowledge management” is not a very good phrase to describe the phenomenon we all in. To me, organizations manage information (explicit, codified knowledge). Much more important part of "km" is interaction between people, and how leadership, organizational structures, etc support that interaction. However, managers often want to hear terms like "km" because "management" often equals controllability (which is often diminishing in modern knowledge-intensive organization).

br, eerikki