Management Tips

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Knowledge Management

What is Knowledge?
Actually,the term knowledge is explained in different ways.Accoding to me,knowledge is understanding of facts related to specific area.

Knowledge is of two types :

  1. Tacit knowledge

  2. Explicit knowledge

Tacit Knowledge is not easily visible and expressible. It cannot be easily transferred. It is deeply rooted in individuals action and experience as well as ideas, values and emotions.

Explicit Knowledge can be expressed and shared in the form of data, scientific formulae, manuals, universal principles. So,it can be readily transferred from one individual to another formally or systematically.

Knowledge thus needs to be transformed into explicit knowledge so that it can be shared with others in the organisation.

What is Knowledge management?
In my view,knowledge management is a technique to congregate and disseminate knowledge.It involedge creation,storage,organize,distribute and share.

  • Knowledge is created as either explicit knowledge or tacit knowledge.

  • Knowledge is stored to enable the organization to organize and share data.

  • Knowledge is acquired and shared by people ,they can search the knowledge items.

  • Knowledge created must be utilized properly. So, more the knowledge created, more is it applied and utilized.

    There are several definitions for knowledge Management. Two of them are cited below

    "Knowledge Management is a process through which organisations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge based assets"(By Meridith Levinson in CIO magazine)

    "Knowledge Management is the discipline of enabling individuals, teams and entire organisations to collectively and systematically create, share and apply knowledge, to better achieve their objectives" (Ron Young, CEO/CKO Knowledge Associates International)

I chose to compare these two definitions which convey a similar meaning and there are several such definitions. The first one defines Knowledge management as a process, while the other calls it a discipline. Which of these is true although both of them are referring to a common term "Knowledge management"? This is the ONLY reason why there exist several such definitions. The reason being 'best practices' as observed by an individual or an organization or a group of organizations involved with similar kind of work. So it is to be understood that the defintion of knowledge mangament cannot be entirely universal as it is governed by an individual or an organization's field of work, practices, principles etc.. thus creating a definition which has a broad meaning. Trying to define it in by narrowing on it would cause the term to be accepted on a global scale due to the constraints presented by the definition. Thus IT Corporations like HP, Deloitte, IBM, etc.. have a different definiton compared to Knowledge management leaders such as Steward and Prusak. So we could co-relate and match the terms in these definitions to see to what extent they match and create a global definition. However this would become an umbrella definition without much detail.



Data is a collection of quantitative or qualitative facts with no inherent meaning. It is also "distinct pieces of information” arranged in an unsystematic way. When data is manipulated, processed manually or by automation it becomes information based on a certain logic generated from a purpose, idea, thought or similar.

I feel, data could be inadequate or futile in a given situation and may not convey the entire meaning or substance by itself . However it can be made useful by organizing, managing and interpreting in a more explicit way where it becomes information.

For example, consider a person recording the population census by moving to each and every house in a town. He collects the raw data by counting the number of persons in each family. Here the data by itself provides numbers specific to each house, which if considered with out further processing may not help much.


Data which has been processed into meaningful patterns that can be recorded and ready for communication. It is also defined as facts or figures arranged in some sort of order by different data manipulation techniques, so that they acquire meaning or reveal information between data items.

Information is the more explicit representation of data so that data becomes meaningful with respect to a given scenario. I strongly feel this is critical with respect to communication without which effective sharing of resources could not be possible.

Consider the above example of collecting population census which can be used to show particular population information for an area or city. The data is useful in providing numbers specific to a house and nothing more. However the idea is to record the population census for the entire town. This requires adding logic to the data and processing it to get the numbers and any other facts based on other criteria for the entire town. This converts the so called data before processing in to useful information that now serves a purpose.


Knowledge is part of the hierarchy made up of data, information and knowledge. "Knowledge is the uniquely human capability of interpreting and extracting meaning from Information [1]. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines knowledge as "the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association[2] .I strongly agree with the above statements because knowledge only be gained through experiences and in that way we learn and interpret the things in a unique and compatible way.

It is information with guidance for actions which can also be referred as "Relationships, facts, assumptions, heuristics and models derived through the formal and informal analysis or interpretation of data”. I feel this as the more formal definition of the knowledge because we now have the knowledge processing systems that are capable of making decisions without less human interaction.

I can support the above statements by continuing the same example of data and information. When information regarding the population of a particular city is determined through census, we can easily predict the increase or decrease in the female population or male population, child birth rate etc. This can be treated as knowledge because we are analyzing and interpreting the information.


1)Leif Edvinsson and Michael S. Malone, Intellectual Capital: Realizing Your Company's True Value by Finding Its Hidden Brainpower. New York: Harper Business, 1997, pp 10-15.
2) “What is Knowledge and Can it Be Managed “by Craig S. Mullins Published: March 1, 1999. (accessed on 11th Feb)

3) (accessed on 11th Feb)


  1. Nanthitha;

    i agree ur definition of knowledge management, also i think the knowledgement management is a Business enabler and exper management system is a systematic process of craeting organising disseminating embedding knowledge and developping and organization to make the best use of an individual and collective knowledge with the goal of enhancing the organizational objective and competitiveness.

  2. Hi , i went through ur article on KM ,,,in which u hay said knowledge is being stored ,a dn i couldnt understand how could knowledge be stored ,,,,,hence will be great if u could explain it to me ,,,,,,

  3. You have written that there are several definitions for KM. What does this mean? Why do you think there are several versions? You need to research this problems and explain it with examples of organisations.

    You have quoted one definition (please give a proper reference) and stated another. Is it your personal position. If so, where are the supporting argument, references and examples?

  4. I assume that this article is under construction because apart from that I can not assume anything!!!!

  5. Nandita,
    There is one point you have raised in your article which I feel is very interesting and needs a debate. In the 4th paragraph where you say:
    "Explicit knowledge can be expressed and shared in the form of data, scientific formulae..."
    to me, confusion arises out of the first inference that says that explicit knowledge can be expressed and shared in the form of .
    The prevalent and most common definition of data is a set of discrete facts with no meaning. If that is so - i.e. data on itself is meaningless -, then how comes that knowledge can be expressed and shared in the form of data i.e. in a meaningless form?
    But, one can argue, as we show when we were discussing differences between K I D, that what is data to one can be information to another. If this is true, could this be the thought you had in mind when expressing this inference?
    Finally, is there a way, in your view, that KM can be applied meaningfully to an organization? In other words, how can you try to convince the owner, of say a big pharmaceucital shop, the importance of KM to his business?

  6. Hi,
    Your flow in this article was good,I feel you should the relate the concepts to an organisation which is needed, I feel you need to have a proper reference with the help of Harvest style.

  7. hi,
    i have read your article and i think you constructed your article well and i think if you would have given examples on tacit and explicit knowledge as you done with terms lke data etc it would be more better and one more thing i think you need to have the harvard system referencing i guess

  8. reply to Richard Osiemo with this message:

    Data can definitely be considered a set of discrete facts, however they are not totally meaningless. They individually carry a meaning which is why they are collected, however the meaning is local to that piece of fact or data and might not make much sense when observed from a broader perspective especially if we want it to serve a greater purpose than it could.

    Thus Data might be meaningless as a collection of these discrete facts as they are arranged haphazardly, but the pieces of discrete facts definitely contain information on a small scale.

    We cannot define these terms very specifically as defining them in such a way would restrict their applicability further. Thus what I meant by sharing it in form of data is that the processing is left to some one else to use it as a whole or individually use them. Either way it could be shared for utilization at the same level or an enhanced level.

    Further KM could be applied to an organization effectively and successfully, provided we learn their need for KM and its application context regardless of the organization size

  9. Reply to Jasmine..
    Hi Jasmine,I think you didn't go through my example properly.Here, I gave an example of the population census which will be usually done by any private or public organization.In my example,I considered the case in India where it will be done by a public organization called population census bureau.

  10. Reply to Madhu...
    Almost any kind of knowledge can be acquired from both a tacit source or an explicit source.
    Except that it is much easier some times to acquire from a tacit source just because of its interactive attributes
    Example of such a thing could be as simple as operating a computer.. It could be done both by acquiring knowledge from a tacit source where a person guides us through the entire procedure OR reading a book or following guidelines from an audio or visual source which are explicit sources to accomplish the same endeavour explicit in nature.Thus Knowledge is stored differently in form of a simple article, video, instructions, ...etc.. or anything similar that would help distribute knowledge