If you’ve been reading our knowledge management blog series, we hope you’ve learned a lot so far.
If you’ve missed any post, have no fear! We packaged everything covered in the past nine blog posts into one bite-sized knowledge management guide for you to reference when you want to brush up on the basics of knowledge management.
Knowledge management was popularized in the early 90s when business experts began to consider an organization’s knowledge as a vital company asset. During knowledge management’s first wave, businesses focused on capturing and protecting their organizational knowledge by investing heavily in databases, fueled by the belief that the more information stored, the better.
By the 2000s, companies found that their databases were flooded with content and data, a lot of which was either irrelevant, out of date, or hidden. They realized that knowledge isn’t a set of static data but a fluid process that lives in people’s minds.
Since then, knowledge management has evolved and become more human-focused, concentrating on how to encourage knowledge sharing in the workplace.
Knowledge management is rife with jargon, so we thought it would be useful to break down three of its most important: data, information, and, of course, knowledge.
Data can be likened to a business’s raw materials. Data, in the form of statistics, facts, or numbers, means very little in isolation; it must be analyzed and contextualized to gain relevance.
This is where information comes in. Information is data that has been collated, digested, and then organized to create meaning and usefulness. Databases, spreadsheets, contact details, and key dates are all examples of data turned into information.
Just as data is the building block of information, information is the foundation of knowledge.
Let’s use our favorite analogy to explain this: If data is the ingredients of a cake, then information is the ingredients list. A raw egg or plain flour has little use on its own, the magic begins to happen when mixed together. Thereby, knowledge is the recipe, where somebody with experience, skill, and intuition has used this list to develop a formula that creates a fantastic result: a delicious cake.
Explicit knowledge is a fact-based type of knowledge that is easy to share and record. Its counterpart, tacit knowledge, is much trickier of a business. Why? Because it’s hidden. It lives deep in our minds and has been formed from feelings, social interactions, attitudes, and experiences over time.
Have you ever been asked, “how do you know that?” and you’ve responded, “I just do!” That’s tacit knowledge for you! It’s tough to replicate, and that’s why it’s so valuable in businesses. So, how do companies capture it?
Embrace tech: knowledge management tools streamline and automate the gathering, storing, and sharing of knowledge, allowing companies to concentrate on more complex parts of the knowledge management process, including capturing tacit knowledge.
Encourage team storytelling: Tacit knowledge is learned through experience, and people best share their experiences through storytelling. Foster casual and conversational settings such as communities of practice (COPs) or one-on-one interviews to let the storytelling flow.
Create a knowledge-sharing environment: Tacit knowledge is very personal, but it’s also social and collective, where so much is learned through interaction and relationship building.
The best knowledge managers are great strategists. They’re adept at prioritizing and organizing, with an ambitious knowledge management end vision and a watertight step-by-step plan on how to achieve it.
They also know how to get the team to embrace this vision. The knowledge manager is an educator that shows the entire team why knowledge management is so essential, as everyone must get on board for it to work. They are highly visible, approachable, and excellent communicators. They should also be likable and influential, gaining the support and trust of others.
At the end of the day, they’re managers, which includes handling the knowledge management strategy, processes, technologies, but also people. They are the central pillar that connects all of these elements.
A knowledge base is a centralized system that’s the team’s one-stop-shop for logging, discovering, and sharing all of their organizational knowledge. There’s a fine art to developing a successful knowledge base.
Firstly, decide carefully what’s going into it by uncovering the existing knowledge in the company, who knows it, and where it’s being stored. This will uncover where the knowledge gaps and silos are, which will form your knowledge base priorities.
After this, decisions must be made about how to organize and categorize the knowledge to make it as accessible and discoverable as possible. This could be by department, content type, or priority level. Also, consider the format the knowledge is presented in, whether it be documents, spreadsheets, how-to videos, or all three. It must be clear, eye-catching, and consistent.
Finally, it’s time to roll out your knowledge base. Ahead of its launch, the team should be trained and educated on why engaging with it is of the utmost importance. Once it’s gone live, adjustments will likely need to be made – no knowledge base is perfect the first time around!
After all that effort, time, and money invested, how do we know our knowledge management strategy is paying off?
Well, what does success look like for your company? The answer depends on the specific focus areas for the business, from increased productivity to higher employee satisfaction. Your knowledge management success should be based on these priorities with clear and concrete metrics to prove it.
To determine productivity, monitor search activity on the knowledge base, including what common keywords people are searching for and how long it takes people to find answers to their queries.
Studying knowledge base usage is also useful. Who and how many are regularly active in the knowledge base each day? Poor participation could indicate that more training is needed or some improvements to the knowledge base should be made.
When it comes to employee satisfaction, anecdotal evidence is often more impactful than complex data. Conduct regular surveys and feedback sessions to get the team’s thoughts on the knowledge management system, how it’s changed their workload and workflow (if at all), and if they’d recommend it to others.
What matters most is whether the team feels like they’re achieving more success at work. So, ask them!
Knowledge is like money; to be of value, it must circulate. Yet, getting teams to knowledge share is a common problem.
With all of the tasks, deadlines, and projects teams have to deliver, teams often feel they don’t have time to knowledge share. To counter this, KM leaders need to show people that knowledge sharing is a priority because it saves a lot of time in the long run. For instance, hours upon hours get wasted through repeated mistakes and the same old questions being asked over and over. This is the direct consequence of a lack of knowledge sharing in organizations.
Sometimes, people just aren’t sure how to best share their knowledge. This requires more team education on the different ways to do so, including the company knowledge base, COPs, and knowledge management software. Help facilitate knowledge sharing through creating physical and virtual spaces that welcome knowledge sharing and the organic flow of ideas.
Often, teams are resistant to sharing their knowledge due to an issue in the corporate culture. Some like to hoard knowledge to gain an edge over their teammates or because of a toxic organizational culture of mistrust. Some even withhold vital information about errors they have made.
The solution is through generous reward and recognition schemes for knowledge sharing and celebrating both instances of success and also mistakes the team can learn from.
Technology has undoubtedly revolutionized knowledge management. Yet, knowledge discovery has become a challenge due to the vast amount of company data and information that technology can store.
Knowledge management software containing search functions, tagging, folders, and categorizing tools have all helped get around this issue, but AI is the real star of the show. Machine learning, natural language processing, and automation have streamlined, and improved knowledge discovery and they’ve encouraged a culture of self-service and independence within the workplace.
Finally, it’s created more transparent and democratic company environments, facilitated team innovation, strengthened organizational culture, and much more!
9. The Future of Knowledge Management
We’ve looked at the past and present of knowledge management, but what about the future?
The role of tech in knowledge management will grow due to remote and hybrid working, and in response, knowledge sharing will go even more global. This digitization will also lead to a greater volume of data collected on teams’ information, activity, and work habits. Knowledge management leaders need to be fully transparent about how data is used to keep teams reassured and safe.
Knowledge management tools and software are closing the gap between top management and employees and reshaping the traditional top-down leadership structure, which current trends show is becoming outdated. Empowering teams to lead and take ownership over their knowledge will lead to more successful knowledge management outcomes.
The future of successful knowledge management will concentrate on capturing tacit knowledge by putting teams through a constant process of upskilling, learning, and unlearning to keep up with an increasingly fast-paced and changing world. In other words, the future of knowledge management is bright!
So, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of everything you need to know about knowledge management. If you’re looking to delve deeper into these topics, check out our nine other blog posts linked in each subheading.
Become a knowledge champion with Lessonly
It’s time to give your team fast, accurate answers to their questions, right in their moment of need. If you’re looking for a partner to help manage your team’s internal knowledge, Lessonly Knowledge is for you. Schedule a demo with our team today!