“More than ever before, the effectiveness of organizations depends on their ability to address issues such as knowledge management, change management, and capability building, all of which could fall into the domain of the HR function” (Lawler & Mohrman 2003, p. 7). In its leadership role, Human Resources (HR) has many tasks and responsibilities. According to Lawler and Mohrman (2003), there are several key organizational challenges faced by HR departments. These challenges include improving productivity, increasing quality, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, improving new product possibilities, and knowledge management. Knowledge management (KM) is defined as the tools, techniques, and processes for the most effective and efficient management of an organization’s intellectual assets (Davies, Studer, Sure, & Warren, 2005). Knowledge management consists of the combination of data and information processing capacity (i.e., information technologies), as well as the creative and innovative capacity of human resources. Knowledge management entails an organization viewing its processes as knowledge processes, in which these processes involve application of knowledge within the organization. Knowledge management focuses on the generation and application of knowledge, leveraging and sharing knowledge to increase the derived value, importing knowledge in the form of skilled employees, connecting knowledge workers, and motivating knowledge workers (Mohrman & Finegold, 2000). According to Robbins (2003) the process of knowledge management entails organizing and distributing an organization’s collective wisdom so that the right information gets to the right people at the right time. As knowledge management becomes increasingly important, organizations must strive to understand the dynamics of knowledge management. This article will discuss the elements of knowledge management, in addition to presenting a case on how organizations can use knowledge management as strategy, where knowledge management is valued more than funding as a strategic resource.
According to Metaxiotis, Ergazakis, and Psarras (2005), knowledge management has its origins in several business improvement areas including Total Quality Management, Business Process Reengineering, Information Systems, and Human Resource Management. Historically knowledge management can be distinguished within three timeframe generations (Metaxiotis et al., 2005). The first generation encompasses the period between 1990-1995. Within this generation knowledge management initiatives focused on defining knowledge management, exploring its benefits, and designing KM-specific projects (Metaxiotis et al., 2005). In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) has been essential in the evolution of knowledge management, where AI is represented and defined as computer intelligence. AI has influenced knowledge management research pertaining to knowledge representation and knowledge storage. Knowledge storage (also referred to as knowledge repository) is based on the storage of knowledge and information for later use, both intellectually and physically (i.e., documents). The main goal of storage is . The second generation of knowledge management emerged around 1996, in which organizations began to establish jobs for KM specialists and knowledge workers. Within this generation, knowledge management research focused on knowledge definitional issues, business philosophies, systems, frameworks, operations and practices, and advanced technologies. The second generation of knowledge management emphasized knowledge management as a systematic organizational change, where management practices, measurement systems, tools, and content management needed co-development (Metaxiotis et al., 2005). The third generation of knowledge management encompasses present-day philosophies. According to Wiig (as cited by Metaxiotis et al., 2005), the difference in the third generation is the degree to which the third generation is integrated with the enterprise’s philosophy, strategy, goals, practices, systems, procedures, and how it becomes part of each employee’s work-life. The third generation of knowledge management plays on the link between knowing and action, where all knowledge is considered inherently social and cultural, and organizational knowledge can only be realized through change in organizational activity and practice (Metaxiotis et al., 2005).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Knowledge: The collection of what has been learned or perceived.
Automation: The process and transformation of manual labor into automated and/or computerized processes.
Knowledge Leverage: Transferring knowledge across space and time ( Dixon, 2000 ).
Knowledge Creation: Translating ongoing experiences into knowledge ( Dixon, 2000 ).
Organizational Strategy: An organization’s tactics and actions to achieve the company’s mission and objectives.
Explicit Knowledge: Formal, systematic knowledge that can be codified ( Zack, 1999b ).
Tacit Knowledge: Knowledge rooted in contextual experiences that is subconsciously understood ( Zack, 1999b ).
Knowledge Management: Utilizing tools, techniques, and processes to regulate intellectual assets ( Davies et al., 2005 ).