Supporting the Mentoring Process

Supporting the Mentoring Process

Karen Neville (University College Cork, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch580
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Abstract

While the concept of knowledge management (KM) is not new, the focus on knowledge management as a strategy has heightened in recent times as organizations realize the importance of knowledge as an intangible asset contributing to the enhancement of competitive advantage (Bolloju & Khalifa, 2000). In the 21st century, it is believed that successful companies are those that effectively acquire, create, retain, deploy, and leverage knowledge (Cecez-Kecmanovic, 2000). Knowledge work is the ability to create an understanding of nature, organizations, and processes, and to apply this understanding as a means of generating wealth in the organization. Evidently, the focus on knowledge management as a strategy has become central to organizations (Davenport & Prusak, 1998). Ichijo, Von Krogh, and Nonaka (1998) view knowledge as a resource that is unique and imperfectly imitable, allowing firms to sustain a competitive advantage. Additionally, many approaches to managing knowledge are marred by obstacles of sustainability (Kulkarni, Ravindran, & Freeze, 2006). As a direct result organizations fail to realize the expected returns on investment from knowledge management implementations or strategies (Zyngier, 2007). However, if knowledge management as a formalized organizational strategy is supported, it can be sustained. Therefore in an economic environment where organizations have been forced to take a step back and reevaluate their core competencies and ability to innovate, organizational knowledge has come to the forefront as a valuable strategic asset (Haghirian, 2003). It is the objective of this article to provide an example of knowledge workers and experts collaborating to implement successful training and learning programs to support knowledge management activities in their organization. The authors hope that the case discussed will inform researchers of an appropriate model in designing an interactive learning environment which enables a positive knowledge sharing environment and in turn contributes to the growth of an organization’s memory.
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Background

The intensity of competition in the business market, advances in technology, and a strong shift towards a knowledge-based economy have each contributed to the demand for Web-based mentoring systems. “There is no knowledge that is not power,” according to Emerson (1843), and the organization (public or private) that can utilize its knowledge resources more effectively than its competitor will persevere. An effective mentoring system between knowledge workers and experts can provide an organization with a strategic advantage in the market. Mentoring environments can help create and maintain skills, and therefore the corporate knowledge base. They both alleviate the strain on corporate resources and facilitate employees’ changing training needs through knowledge sharing. Therefore the majority of organizations face the enormous challenge of supporting their employees’ thirst for expanding their skill base and effectively their corporate assets, as “knowledge implies a knower; the rest is just information.” Some companies exploit the capabilities of Web technology to facilitate knowledge sharing at workgroup and company levels (Davenport, 1996). Recent evidence points to the deployment of organizational systems with the primary objectives of improving customer services, increasing revenue, containing costs, and improving internal processes—in other words, creating competitive advantage. In the case under consideration, the organization implemented a successful mentoring system in order to develop employee skills and knowledge in both IT and managerial issues such as knowledge management. This article is focused on the development of a Web-based mentoring system (WBMS) to mentor (Neville, Adam, & McCormack, 2002) workers and enhance learning. The case study indicates a strong requirement for the utilization of such an environment to both increase support for and collaboration between the knowledge workers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Explicit Knowledge: Information that has specific meaning and can be easily and clearly understood.

Knowledge Work: The ability to create an understanding of nature, organizations, and processes, and to apply this understanding as a means of generating wealth in the organization.

Mentoring: A method of teaching that has been used for hundreds of years; this design is incorporated into learning networks to develop more effective learning practices and provide additional support to the learner.

Tacit Knowledge: Knowledge gained through an individual’s own experiences.

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