IGI Global contributor Dr. N. Raghavendra Rao enlightens us on knowledge harvesting

Sowing the Seeds for Success: How Knowledge Harvesting Can Advance your Company

By Alex Johnson on Aug 16, 2017

Harvesting, typically refers to the collection or reaping of a crop from plowable land. In this sense, we tend to think of it as increasing the yield due to better agricultural practices, technologies or increased awareness. On a similar note, organizational databases/information systems can be likened to cultivable land. Employee knowledge and insight could be considered similar to fertilizer in the agricultural sector.

We recently spoke with Dr. N. Raghavendra Rao, editor of the publication Social Media Listening and Monitoring for Business Applications, to pick his brain on the subject of knowledge harvesting and especially how it pertains to social media, business, and government. He is an academician with decades of experience in a handful of industries and a particular focus on knowledge management– referring to the multidisciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.

So what exactly is knowledge harvesting? Dr. Rao defines it as the following: “Knowledge harvesting happens whenever employees update their knowledge and wisdom in the data/information systems for the use of their colleagues for business purposes. [It] is the integration of processes that capture the often-hidden insight of human expertise in business.”

He then goes on to make the distinction between learning and knowing stating, “..They are two completely different aspects. Learning comes with experience. Knowledge is the result of being told.”

According to Dr. Rao, “Knowledge is based on [the] ability to apply principles and structured approaches to solving business problems. Since business is transforming rapidly, it is more important to be able to infer and learn from what happened in the recent past.”

Now armed with a general understanding of what knowledge harvesting is, it is important to take into consideration the main difficulties when trying to put this into practice. As with any new system implementation, knowledge harvesting does not come without its challenges. It would appear the overarching challenge business enterprises face today is identifying where the knowledge resides and how to leverage it for their benefit. With an increasing demand to create knowledge-based systems in businesses to foster competitive advantage in a market, the fact of the matter is that only a small fraction of corporate knowledge is in shareable form.

“A major portion of corporate knowledge is in employees’ brains and documents," explains Dr. Rao.." It is not easily shareable. The knowledge harvesting process is needed to make it shareable. The output of knowledge harvesting is the codification of human-centered assets in business enterprises… This creates value for businesses. Furthermore, it has to be used for guidance and decision making.”

“Business success lies in converting information into knowledge… Knowledge in the business context is nothing but actionable information.”

When prompted on why this concept is important for business and government alike to utilize, Dr. Rao had this to offer:

“The greatest challenge in implementing knowledge management is helping employees make the transition from knowledge hoarders to knowledge sharers." This is unfortunately coupled with the fact that many individuals, 'follow the practice of a selective distribution of knowledge.'"

“With knowledge comes power and influence in an organization and in today’s business scenario one may find most employees working in a knowledge hoarder’s environment.”
“The essence of a knowledge management environment is to carefully manage human-centered assets in business enterprises. Change in mindset among employees is needed. Managers are expected to act as mentors to help employees change to knowledge workers and make use of the organizational knowledge base. Instead of looking at individuals as just information processors or decision makers, it is required to understand their work and support for making them feel their importance in the business of the organization.”

When asked how social media has transformed modern day business and governmental affairs Dr. Rao had this to share:

“Social media for business is an extremely useful tool of information, product description, and promotion of all integrated business activities… Similarly, for government, it is an easy way to highlight the important points in their schemes and programs to their citizens.”

He then adds that, "Social media is a relatively inexpensive medium to reach people. It provides virtually instantaneous responses with a high degree of participation and interaction between users.”

This is especially important considering that citizens are the immediate recipients of the government’s programs and schedules so it would be more conducive to have situations where the people have a chance to discuss (via social media) amongst themselves for suggestions or improvements.

Dr. Rao concludes,, "Social media is an open box of potential. The opportunities that social media sites provide are yet to be fully utilized by the government. These sites can be used to promote good environmental practices, share ideas of best practices or awareness of government policies and plans.”

Interestingly enough, he even ventures to suggest that government should engage the experts in social media for developing business models for them.

All of this really makes you wonder, just how wisely is your knowledge being used?

IGI Global would like to thank Dr. N. Raghavendra Rao for taking the time to share his views on knowledge harvesting, businesses and government. For further information on business and management systems, please review the publications below:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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