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Introduction to knowledge management

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Knowledge Management or KM is any process which incorporates the desire to expand our range of inquiry with the need to simplify our decisions, options or actions.[1] This can involve both human and technological applications.


The knowledge management process strives towards a two-fold result of:

  • organizing existing knowledge, and
  • facilitating the creation of new knowledge.

Towards this end, KM has always existed on an informal basis i.e. brainstorming, colleagues chatting, ad hoc filing systems, mentoring etc. As an emergent business practice, KM has seen the introduction of the Chief Knowledge Officer, and the establishment of corporate Intranets, wikis, and other knowledge and information technology practices.

As a formal theory, KM is relatively new. In the last ten years, the Internet has seen groups discussing the relationship of knowledge, information and data; the use of intellectual capital as a value metric; the meaning of tacit vs explicit knowledge; data mining, and more.


The KID Approach

To implement a KM strategy, it helps to understand the context and relevance of terms like knowledge, information and data (KID).

  • Information is data endowed with relevance and purpose. Converting data into information thus requires knowledge. Peter Drucker
Further Examples

Nonaka/Takeuchi (Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company, New York: Oxford University Press.) conclude that all knowledge creation begins with the individual.[2] They suggest that knowledge is comprised of tacit and explicit aspects, like yin and yang. Tacit knowledge is knowing that has been internalized, and is difficult to share or express. Explicit knowledge has been externalized, and is easier to exchange.[3]

Don Mezei (Mezei, D. (2002). The One Minute Knowledge Manager; Mezei, D. (2000). The Unified Theory of Knowledge) compares knowledge, information and data to levels of context. As a form of appropriation, it's more convenient to discuss law in terms of knowledge than data, while it's more convenient to describe the path of an electron or density of a metal in terms of data rather than information or knowledge. So overall:

  • Data is used to describe the world that extends between inorganic matter and biological forms. For example, data is used in fuzzy logic to control braking systems.
  • Information is used to describe the world that extends between biological forms and social groups. For example, the overall equation for photosynthesis in green plants.
  • Knowledge is used to describe the world that extends between social groups and intellectual ideas. For example, The United States Constitution styles itself the 'supreme law of the land.' Here a group of intellectual ideas help govern a social body, the U.S. of A.

In another example, he illustrates how the interrelationships of knowledge, information and data can be understood using the alphabet. Using this context, we can see how information can be construed from data, knowledge from information etc:

  • (T)(h)(e)(o)(l)(d)(s)(h)(o)(e) - data
  • (The)(old)(shoe) - information
  • (The old shoe) - knowledge

Denham Gray uses the example of baking a cake to define knowledge, information and data:

  • data - the different ingredients i.e. flour, water, eggs, sugar etc.
  • information - the recipe i.e. mix flour, eggs and water, preheat oven to 400 etc.
  • knowledge - the know how the cook uses to bake the cake, to best utilize the data and information available.[4]


As an emergent business practice, KM seeks to leverage the competitive advantage that comes with improved or faster learning and new knowledge creation.


to follow

Related Definitions

  • Knowledge management - a process which transforms intellect into intellectual capital.[5]
  • Intellectual capital - the intangible assets of a company which contribute to its valuation.
  • Chief Knowledge Officer - an executive responsible for maximizing the knowledge potential of an organisation.
  • Knowledge - that which can be acted upon.
  • Personal knowledge management - the organisation of an individual's thoughts and beliefs.
  • Enterprise knowledge management - the strategy, process or technologies used to acquire, share and re-use an enterprise's knowledge and understanding.

Knowledge Management Tools

Wikis are examples of software systems that are used as a knowledge management tool. For example, the HowTo/Wikisolutions project is to KM what Wikipedia is to encyclopedias: a place to organize knowledge and information related to all areas in which people may be interested in an open society.


Just as Collins and Porras (Collins, J. and Porras, J. (1997) Built to Last, New York: Harper Collins) write that 'successful companies simultaneously preserve the core and stimulate progress', knowledge is managed by expanding our range of inquiry while simultaneously refining the understanding that drives our decisions.


[1] Mezei, Don. (2006) and posted on Definition not written by Nonaka/Takeuchi. Created by Don Mezei. Do not refer my definition to Nonaka/Takeuchi, as this is considered copyright infringement.

[2] Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company, New York: Oxford University Press.

[3] Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company, New York: Oxford University Press.

[4] Gray, D. (1998) posted as an archived message on

[5] Mezei, D. (2003) and posted on Not written by Nonaka/Takeuchi.

See also

External links


de:Wissensmanagement fr:Gestion des connaissances he:ניהול ידעnl:Kennismanagementzh:知识管理

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