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Articles: Starting Out

A Short Course in Knowledge Management (page 2)
Author: Jerry Ash

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Understanding Knowledge
Auditing Knowledge
Restructuring for Knowledge
Changing the work culture
Building Knowledge Networks
Utilising Computer Technology
Getting Started

Understanding knowledge

With stocks trading on the international market at an average of six times their companies' material worth (Microsoft at 15 to 1), the business community is keenly aware that its value is more deeply embedded in what it knows, not what it owns. This revelation extends to all organizations, whether profit or not. But the bigger shock comes with the realization that an estimated 80 percent of the knowledge asset isn't owned. It's not in computers; it's not in file cabinets -- it's "rented." It clocks out every night when the employees go home.

Knowledge, then, is people-based. It's information that has been processed, analyzed, distilled and packaged by the human mind.

Information is not knowledge. That became painfully clear during the Information Age when organizations invested heavily in information technology only to find themselves drowning in vast in-house caches of meaningless and unused data. Now they are inundated externally with even more mega-tons of information, unfiltered on-line. Organizations that do not understand the difference between knowledge and information will fall once again into the technology trap.

Auditing knowledge

If knowledge is an asset, it has to be managed just the same as the financial and physical assets of the Industrial Age were managed. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of what our workers know is hidden. We don't know what we know and we don't know who knows it.

Can you imagine such a scenario in the Industrial Age? If an organization didn't know what its tangible assets were or who had them, it was likely headed for bankruptcy? Even though much of knowledge is intangible, it is the primary asset and the knowledge audit is an essential precursor to managing it.

Here are some of the basic questions of a knowledge audit:

  • What does your organization know?
  • What doesn't it know?
  • Who needs to know it?
  • Who knows what?
  • Are they inside or outside the organization?
  • Do your leaders understand knowledge?
  • The value of knowledge?
  • Are they leading by example?
  • Does your organization systematically organize and transfer knowledge internally?
  • Is it systematically acquiring and sharing knowledge outside the organization?
  • Are you creating new knowledge?
  • Are you leveraging knowledge to benefit your members and the association?
  • Do you measure, assign value to the knowledge asset?
  • Is your work environment knowledge friendly?

Restructuring for Knowledge >>

Jerry Ash is Senior Counsellor, The Forbes Group and
Chief Executive, Association of Knowledgework
Article used with permission