Knowledge management

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1 Definition

  • Knowledge management is the problem of capturing, organizing, and retrieving information in an organization.
  • “ Knowledge Management is a new branch of management for achieving breakthrough business performance through the synergy of people, processes, and technology. Its focus is on the management of change, uncertainty, and complexity.” (WWW Virtual Library on Knowledge Management)
  • “ Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival, and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change.... Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” (WWW Virtual Library on Knowledge Management)

Related issues:

2 Typologies


Here is quote from Dave Pollard []

A big problem with KM is that, like the six blind men feeling different parts of the elephant, the term has come to mean many different things to different people, and hence nothing at all:

  • Academics: KM is anything that allows us to do something better in business than we can do without it
  • Consultants: KM is an aspect of business process improvement
  • IT People: KM is any software that concerns itself at least vaguely with databases or content management systems
  • Librarians: KM is the new name for what special librarians have always done
  • HR People: KM is the process surrounding non-classroom learning curricula

  • “ When defining knowledge management some people emphasize intellectual capital, others think of supporting technologies, whereas others put community building first.” (Ritsko and Birman)

2.2 Roles

In Jahnke's (2009) study of a Socio-Technical Community (STC) 9 types of informal posting roles based on Herrmann (2004) have been identified. The observed portal was created for large computer science schools, i.e. InPUD stands for Informatics Portal University of Dortmund.

Informal roleDescription of informal posting activitiesTypical InPUD examples
AuthorA member who contributes information and communicates own ideas by writing short statements. InPUD-members add their own contributions and ideas“It would be nice, if the department had a central website with all information about the computer science courses. InPUD is a good idea. Unfortunately some people in the department do not work sufficiently with InPUD”
ScaffoldingA member who provides structure to the discussion“Please, look at the thread of study management, before you ask the same questions as the others”
  1. x201c;This question was already answered in thread 19”
Reading as visitorSomeone who reads contributions of other users and is primarily interested in getting an orientation without making own contributions (gets inspiration)“I am not a member of this university”
Conflict-mediatorA member who acts as a mediator in emotional conflicts (e.g., when two or more members have a dispute) and intervenes in emotional discussions (to enable the discussion to continue)“I understand your problem, and it is good that you want to change something, but this thread is not the right way to solve your problem. Would you mind talking with the professor face-to-face?”
Technical-supportA member who explains the use of the technical system“Why is the board so often offline at the weekend?” The answer of the technical-supporter: “A person told me they are upgrading the software. The new version should work in 2 weeks. Hopefully, they are right”
Conclusion-makingA member who adds comments to postings and has an essential influence on the content of the discussion“From my point of view, it looks like…” or “Summarised…”
Promoter of the procedureSomeone who makes the current procedure more transparent, supports task completion, positively promotes the discussion or activities and motivates to participate“Yes, I could explain the seven answers of the exam after the exam – when there are enough students who will participate. I suggest Wednesday, 14 February, I am in room E28. I will not do this if there are just 3 or 4 people, so, come on, and all come to the meeting”
Organisational-supporterA member who provides another view of the activities (meta-level: communication about the communication), support to think about organisational conventions (e.g., how to communicate)“Why have you written this posting three times? Please, wait a moment before you write it again”. >“You say that someone says the script would be online, but where is it and who said this?”
Decision-initiatorSomeone who combines diverging contributions by relating them to a summarising statement; if the discussion diverges, the person calls for an informal vote to reach consensus“Do we share this view of the problem?”

3 What is knowledge management ?

Knowledge management is the synergy of people's knowledge, processes, and technology and therefore it makes sense to discuss knowledge management in terms of knowledge management systems (KMS). Gallupe (2001) introduces four frameworks to study and discuss these systems.

“ Knowledge management systems are the tools and techniques that support knowledge-management practices in organizations .... In summary, KMSs can be thought of as systems composed of people, tools and technologies.” (Gallupe, 2001).

In his General Systems Framework for Knowledge Management Systems (KMS), Gallupe (2001:66) defines three components of a knowledge management system.

  • Inputs: Knowledge, people, tools
  • Process: Interaction of Knowledge, People and tools
  • Outputs: Useful Knowledge

These three components interact through feedback loops.

His second framework is the Four component Model of KMS, based on an earlier model of Group Decision Support Systems. A KMS is

  • A Knowledge base (or repository) subsystem
  • A Group support (or knowledge transfer) subsystem
  • A User-Interface subsystem
  • Knowledge users / knowledge generators (so each user has a double role)

The third framework of Gallupe (2001) is a Knowledge Life Cycle that follows knowledge through the stages of its life cycle form creation to disposition.

  1. Knowledge creation or acquisition
  2. Knowledge codification and storage
  3. Knowledge transfer or dissemination
  4. Knowledge use

Daniel K. Schneider has the impression that this kind of heavy waterfall model may one of the reason why knowledge management seem to fail ....

The fourth and final Framework focuses on KMSs to support knowledge management practices. “This framework incorporates the process and structures inherent in the 'General Systems' and the 'Four Components' models, respectively. In addition, it implicitly uses the 'Knowledge Life Cycle Model' to help categorise knowledge-management practices and uses of KMSs. The 'Knowledge Management Practice' framework is based on the work of Gray and Chan (1999). This framework examines knowledge-management practices along two dimensions. The first dimension is the process to be supported (problem recognition or problem solving). The second dimension is the class of problem being solved (new or unique, previously solved). The integration of these dimensions results in four types of knowledge-management practices that may be supported by KMSs.” (Gallupe, 2001:67)

The Gallupe Knowledge Practices Framework for Knowledge Management Systems:

Class of Problem
New/UniquePreviously Solved
Problem RecognitionEncouraging
Serendipity (1)
& Training (4)
Problem SolvingKnowledge
Creation (2)
Acquisition (3)

4 Knowledge management in education

It can play a important role both in formal and informal settings.


  • The C3MS project-based learning model that engages students in collective activites, like knowledge sharing.
  • This Wiki (since May 2006, we started encouraging our graduate students to share their literature reviews, see the french version).

5 Technology

Gallup (2001) defines the following kinds of tools to support knowledge mangement systems.

IntranetsPrivate internet-based networks using Web-browsers to share knowledge.
Information retrieval programsTools to search corporate knowledge/data bases as well as external knowledge sources to provide access to a wide variety of knowledge.
Database management systems Combine with intranets and information network tools to provide a platform to build specific knowledge management tools.
Document management software Provide the means for capturing, storing, and distributing knowledge in the form of documents as opposed to discrete data.
GroupwareSoftware and hardware that enables workgroups to communicate and collaborate. Groupware tools typically have features that enable groups to perform such tasks as generating ideas (create new knowledge) and reaching consensus.
Intelligent agentsSoftware programs that can filter out the knowledge that the user really needs. This may be particularly important in knowledge-intensive situations where particular knowledge sources need to be monitored.
Knowledge-based or expert systemsStore the knowledge of experts in the form of rules or cases and then provide that knowledge to novices or other experts.

5.1 A few tools

"Real" KM systems

6 Links

  • KmWiki, a collaborative persistent 'conversation' on all matters related to knowledge management.
  • KMForum - from their homepage:“ virtual community of practice focused on furthering the fundamental theories, methods, and practices supporting the Knowledge Professions.”
  • Journal of Knowledge Management Practice ISSN 1705-9232. “The JKMP began publishing its first articles in January, 1998 in a bold new free "open library" concept and this tradition has been maintained since that time.”

7 References

7.1 Practical

  • Ritsko, John J. and Alex Birman, IBM System Journal, Special issue on Knowledge Management, 40 (4), 2001, 812-813.

7.2 Technical/Conceptual

  • Andrus, D. Calvin (2005). "The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community". Studies in Intelligence 49 (3). PDF download site.
  • T. Erickson, D. Smith, W. A. Kellogg, M. Laff, J. Richards, and E. Bradner, Socially Translucent Systems: Social Proxies, Persistent Conversation and the Design of Babble, Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI'99), ACM Press, New York (1999), pp. 72-79.
  • E. Bradner, W. A. Kellogg, and T. Erickson, The Adoption and Use of Babble: A Field Study of Chat in the Workplace,Proceedings of the European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW'99), Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Nanjappa, Aloka; Grant, Michael M. (2003). "Constructing on constructivism: The role of technology". Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education 2 (1). PDF
  • Nonaka, Ikujiro (1991). "The knowledge creating company". Harvard Business Review 69 (6 Nov-Dec): 96–104. HTML
  • Nonaka, I., 1991, The knowledge-creating company. Harvard Business Review, 69, 96-104.
  • Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H., 1995, The knowledge-creating company, New York, Oxford University Press
  • Nonaka, I., & Konno, N. (1998). The concept of “ba”: Building a foundation for knowledge creation. California Management Review, 40(3), 40–54.
  • Nonaka, I. and von Krogh, G. (2009). Tacit knowledge and knowledge conversion: Controversy and advancement in organizational knowledge creation theory. Organization Science, 20(3), 635-652 PDF
  • Michael H. Zack (1998), If Managing Knowledge is the Solution, then What's the Problem? HTML Preprint, published in Knowledge Management and Business Model Innovation, Yogesh Malhotra (ed.), Idea Group Publishing, April, 2001
  • Brent Gallupe (2001), Knowledge management systems: surveying the landscape, International Journal of Management Reviews 3 (1), 61-77. doi:10.1111/1468-2370.00054 Abstract (Access restricted)
  • Ji-Hong Park (2006). The Role Of Trust On Knowledge Creation In A Virtual Organization: A Social Capital Perspective, Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, Vol. 7, No. 4, December 2006. HTML free full text