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Why is Knowledge Management beneficial? Can it improve your organisation’s effectiveness?

19/10/20
by Petra Veres and Silvia Cappeluozzi

While among practitioners in Knowledge Management (KM) there is no commonly accepted framework to measure the beneficial impact of the practice,[1] KM is an important discipline which in the past decade has attracted more attention across organisations for a reason. “Knowledge is power”, it is the power within an organisation which enables it to be sustainable, resilient and effective. Hence, we need to know how to manage it effectively.

 

Even though “knowledge” has multiple interpretations, there is common agreement between practitioners that it includes information, belief or understanding which enables effective action[2]. On our KM course, we define “knowledge” as “the facts, feelings or experiences known by a person or group of people.” Knowledge can be different in its nature. Explicit knowledge means knowledge that is codified, for example in documents, visuals or other media, and this can be easily shared, taught and learned. Tacit knowledge however is in our head and body, and is gained through personal experience; this is more difficult to interpret and share. Knowledge can be generated, acquired, harvested, stored and shared. The discipline of Knowledge Management involves all of these aspects within the broader context of organisational culture.

 

As a discipline, KM originated in the private sector; more recently other sectors are increasingly expanding KM practices in their work as well.

 

So why is KM important and why does it benefit you, regardless of whether you are working for an NGO, INGO, Government Ministry, UN agency or Multilateral organisation? Why is it essential for you to learn more and become a Knowledge Mobiliser regardless of  your organisational role?

To acquire, store and share knowledge within an organisation has its challenges. “Knowledge transfer is a tremendously leaky process” [3]. I am probably not saying anything new by noting that during and even after a project, valuable information which was collected individually or collectively by the team for the organisation gets lost unintentionally. People working for international development organisations might be under a lot of pressure due to ongoing parallel projects or continuously appearing new tasks. This might limit the time where the team could share their experiences and their individual and collective “lessons learned” from a project. When a project team gets disbanded and people move onto new separate tasks, they might begin to post-rationalise what happened during the project they worked on together. This can lead to an ineffective knowledge transfer which will not benefit the project group, the organisation nor a team which might be working on a similar project in the future. Furthermore, to acquire and store or document the knowledge is also a challenge. The information should be easily accessible to those who need at the time they need it and in the appropriate format. It has surely happened at least once in your organisation that you or a colleague couldn’t find what you needed, so you just ended up recreating and duplicating existing knowledge which could have been found with a knowledge sharing culture. Continuous and long information searches cause inefficiency and can lead to delays in decision making. 

 

It is a fact that not everyone in an organisation is super organised and as humans we do forget things. This results in us not learning properly from our mistakes, we repeat these mistakes, we don’t learn from our successes and sometimes we end up doing everything twice! So, given these realities it might be worth looking for ways to address these challenges.

 

 

There are some key questions which you might want to ask yourself and your organisation:

 

•          Do you have a work environment which fosters continuous knowledge sharing? (e.g.do you have effective regular team meetings)

•          How is the organisation managing internally- and externally-acquired tacit knowledge?

•          Is information shared with more colleagues than just with those who you work together on a project or task?

•          Is knowledge frequently documented and easily accessible within your organisation?

 

Now grab a piece of paper and note down the answers. Then, based on your answers, you can tick each response you are satisfied with. This will reveal your thoughts on where your organisation might need to develop in terms of KM.

 

 KM benefits the whole spectrum from the individual to the group or team to the entire organisation. Overall organisational effectiveness is boosted as KM can:

 

 

 

-          create a more efficient workplace

-          induce informed and faster decision making

-          help to build and store organisational knowledge

-          increase collaboration between colleagues and teams

-          contribute to the team's wellbeing and hence boost motivation

-          lead to innovative ideas

-          help with effective risk and opportunity management

-          helps individuals spend less time reinventing the wheel

Knowledge is an asset for an individual, a team and hence, for an organisation. Its management, therefore, influences the above-mentioned actors’ effectiveness.

 

In sum, KM is an important discipline to embrace as it can enable an organisational learning culture in which knowledge sharing is encouraged and individuals who seek to learn more are able to easily do so.

 

Watch this video to find out about our Online Knowledge Management course...

[1] Arisha, A. and M. Ragab (2013) Knowledge management and measurement: a critical review,Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(6).

[2] Gillman, H.,  Zielinski, C., Dhewa, C.,  Hagmann, J. and Martins K. (2020) Challenges and opportunities in measuring knowledge management results and development impact (Part 2) Vol. 15 No. 1.

[3] Collison, C. (2012) Knowledge Management and Lessons Learned, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtJv4QXE0RA&fbclid=IwAR3-UsUE0wAxeXRtdJZT9z_YCnIWt3L4YApsAGCxvFzdkG70g3cLQOEmmOY


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