Information management, Knowledge Management, and Organizations
Knowledge is a construct that is difficult to define and adequately describe, it is one of those things that everybody has and can claim to know what it is but cannot be succinctly put to words. Cognitive theories had defined knowledge in terms of processes and structure of the human mind, on neural and synaptic responses which is essentially beyond the understanding of the general population.
Knowledge is more than the sum of its parts as it seems but researchers have tried to identify its elements and apply it to how organizations operate their business the insight, the learning and transfer of knowledge is taken into the context of the information and data available within the organization and its utilization to improve productivity and performance and lessen operating costs.
To the managers and management consultancy firms, this is referred to as knowledge management. They propose that knowledge is a minefield that can be accessed and utilized by organizations to increase productivity and to become more competitive in their fields.
However, as popular as knowledge management is, the lack of consensus on what it is and what it refers to and how it can be managed has contributed to its downfall. In an article by T. D.Wilson, in which he surveyed the scientific journals that published studies with knowledge management in its titles showed that majority of these academic articles described knowledge management as information systems, on the other hand, when he did the same search with consultancy firms he reported that knowledge management was marketed in tandem with softwares that allowed organizations to manage their information pool through data banks and libraries, which again is a reflection of information systems.
And on his review of course offerings on knowledge management in most of the business schools in the country and Europe, the more prestigious schools do not offer the course and the other schools only offers it as an elective or seminar and also reflects the difficulty of what the concept is about. Despite the ineffectiveness of knowledge management most organizations had tried adopting it as part of the call for building and managing organizational knowledge as a key predictor of organizational learning.
Dodgson (1993) defines organizational learning as the process by which the organization builds, supplement and organize knowledge and establish routines of their activities to improve organizational efficiency by utilizing the skills of their workforce. On the other hand, organizational knowledge refers to the tacit and explicit knowledge that each employee in an organization has that would enable them to carry out their tasks effectively (Davenport, DeLong & Beers, 1998).
This means that organization learning is the process by which the organization makes sense and utilizes the vast information in their company while organizational knowledge is the expertise and know-how that each employee brings to the company and learns from the company. Management consultancy firms says that organizational knowledge is a resource that should be utilized and that to do so, one must apply knowledge management so that the company can provide its workforce with learning present in the organization.
When taken as a construct, the relationship between organizational learning and organizational knowledge and knowledge management is neat, plausible and ultimately wrong. Rather than managing knowledge to reinforce organizational learning, one must come to terms first with what is knowledge. There is no easy and neat definition of knowledge, as evidenced by T. D. Wilson’s (2002) article, moreover, the idea of organizational knowledge and organizational learning is plausible but lacks veracity when we analyze its viability and effectiveness in improving the performance and productivity of the employees and the company.
For one, knowledge is a construct, it is not tangible, and to argue that organizations has knowledge is elementary, it logically follows that if all employees have knowledge then the organization as a whole is composed of interrelated knowledges. And if this knowledge can be managed and the organization build a community of learners and give its employees opportunity to share knowledge and learn from one another, then everyone in the company would become knowledgeable of other people’s tasks and expertise yet how could this enrich their own expertise in their own field of specialization?
Besides the fact that organizations are made up of different departments and to say that the engineering department could learn from the finance department is a stretch. Throughout this discussion, it could be gleaned that what is being managed in organizations is not knowledge but information, since it is the only thing that is put to writing, can be coded, systematized and organized, hence managed. Thus, it goes without saying, that most management consultants offer their clients ways to organize information that is already present in each company under the guise of knowledge management.
References: Davenport, T. , DeLong, D. , & Beers, M. (1998). Successful knowledge management projects. Sloan Management Review ;43-57 Dodgson, M. (1993). Organizational learning: A review of some literatures. Organization Studies, 14;3: 375-394. Wilson, T. D. (2002). The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’. Information Research, 8(1), paper no. 144 [Available at http://InformationR. net/ir/8-1/paper144. html].