Nonaka’s (1994) four modes of knowledge:
creation – socialization (the conversion of tacit knowledge to new tacit knowledge through social interactions and shared experiences), combination (creating new explicit knowledge by merging, categorizing, and synthesizing existing explicit knowledge), externalization (converting tacit knowledge to new explicit knowledge) and internalization (the creation of new tacit knowledge from explicit knowledge). Illustrative of these four modes respectively are apprenticeships, literature survey reports, “lessons learned” repositories and individual or group learning through discussions.
In contrast to knowledge creation, knowledge acquisition involves the search for, recognition of, and assimilation of potentially valuable knowledge, often from outside the organization (Huber, 1991). After new knowledge is created or acquired, KM mechanisms should be in place to prepare it to be entered into the organization’s memory in a manner that maximizes its impact and long-term reusability.
Knowledge refinement refers to the processes and mechanisms that are used to select, filter, purify and optimize knowledge for inclusion in various storage media. Tacit, or implicit, knowledge must be explicated, codified, organized into an appropriate format and evaluated according to a set of criteria for inclusion into the organization’s formal memory. Of course, explicit knowledge needs only to be formatted, evaluated, and selected.
Organizational memory includes knowledge stored in the minds of organizational participants, that held in electronic repositories, that which has been acquired and retained by groups or teams and that which is embedded in the business’s processes, products or services and its relationships with customers, partners and suppliers (Cross and Baird, 2000).
In order for knowledge to have wide organizational impact, it usually must be either transferred or shared. Transfer and sharing may be conceptualized as two ends of a continuum. Transfer involves the focused and purposeful communication of knowledge from a sender to a known receiver (King, 2006a) .
Sharing is less-focused dissemination, such as through a repository, to people who are often unknown to the contributor (King, 2006b). This involves some combination of the two processes and both processes may involve individuals, groups or organizations as either senders or receivers, or both.
Once knowledge is transferred to, or shared with, others, it may be utilized through elaboration (the development of different interpretations), infusion (the identification of underlying issues), and thoroughness (the development of multiple understandings by different individuals or groups) (King and Ko, 2001) in order to be helpful in facilitating innovation, collective learning, individual learning, and/or collaborative problem solving (King, 2005). It may also be embedded in the practices, systems, products and relationships of the organization through the creation of knowledge-intensive organizational capabilities (Levitt and March, 1988).
Those who have an academic interest in KM sometimes forget that organizational performance improvement is what KM is ultimately all about. Anticipated improvements are the primary basis that organizations use to judge the value of KM initiatives.
Many otherwise-worthy KM efforts are “shot down” because KM “experts” have not taken the effort to assess, forecast and adequately argue for their potential impact on the organization’s goals of improved productivity, revenues, profits and return on investment.
- Cross, R., and L. Baird. (2000). “Technology is not enough: Improving performance by building organizational memory,” Sloan Management Review, 41(3): 69–79.
- Huber, G.P. 1991. Organizational learning: The contributing processes and the literatures. Organisation Science 2(1): 88–115.
- King, W.R. 2005. Communications and information processing as a critical success factor in the effective knowledge organization. International Journal of Business Information Systems 10(5): 31–52.
- King, W.R. 2006a. In “Knowledge sharing”: The encyclopedia of knowledge management, D.G. Schwartz, 493–498. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.
- King, W.R. 2006b. In “Knowledge transfer”: The encyclopedia of knowledge management, ed. D.G. Schwartz, 538–543. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.
- King, W.R., and D.-G. Ko. 2001. Evaluating knowledge management and the learning organization: An information/knowledge value chain approach. Communications of the Association for Information Systems 5(14): 1–26.
- Levitt, B., and J.G. March. 1988. Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology 14: 319–340.
- Nonaka, I. 1994. A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organisational Science 5(1): 14–37.