KM Concepts Module
3: The Knowledge Process
you will learn in this module:
module will introduce you to the processes of knowledge management,
including knowledge production, knowledge acquisition, and knowledge
will learn to:
management as it relates to KM, and explain the difference between formal and
between knowledge validation and knowledge quality
- describe knowledge
acquisition and knowledge diffusion
among knowledge production, knowledge acquisition, and knowledge
between personal or individual knowledge and collective
why selling a knowledge claim is important
among tacit knowledge, unstructured knowledge, declarative, and explicit knowledge
techniques that are utilized to formulate, refine and
- identify how knowledge can be refined
interpret how knowledge
might be tested
what is meant by validating a claim,
and identify various ways
to transfer knowledge
noted in the last section, disciplines develop different and specialized
languages for talking about areas of common interest. The same is true for
KM. When a new science is forming, it often borrows concepts and terms from
others. KM has borrowed many of its terms from sociology, cognitive science,
economics, business management, information science, and
with the principal interest of KM,
is a hierarchical network of rules about specific data or information that have
explanatory, predictive, and functional power for people. This network is held in
cultural, social, organizational, and physical memory. People manage
knowledge as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as societies.
These rules are categorized as procedural
Procedural rules are the “know-how” rules and declarative rules
are the “know-what” rules. Both types of rules work together to form
Before going further, let’s differentiate between different types of
refers to knowledge about facts
refers to knowledge about principles and
laws of motion in nature, the human mind, and society
refers to skills - i.e. the ability to do something.
information about who knows what and who knows what to do. It is
typically a kind of knowledge developed and kept within the boundaries
of a group such as a firm or community of practice. As the complexity of
the knowledge increases, co-operation between groups tend to develop.
rules of knowledge are produced and managed in knowledge processes.
Knowledge processes are what individuals and collectives use
to produce, transmit, acquire, store, and use knowledge.
Why would a business be interested in KM?
to become "adaptive," "agile," "nimble," and "high
velocity." Good KM is a powerful way to achieve these states.
The most precious knowledge
for an organization is knowledge
that can help you achieve your goals faster and better. Acquiring, producing, and acting on
this "best" knowledge will enable a company to adapt more quickly
and accurately to its economic climate.
and groups both process
knowledge. KM happens when knowledge processes are affected directly by a
person or group, or indirectly by norms, beliefs, or cultural rules.
those processes are affected, the quality of the knowledge products involved
can improve, decline, or stay the same. The purpose of KM is to improve knowledge products in a way that will help a person or group
achieve goals faster and better.
knowledge means monitoring and improving it by measuring and
modifying knowledge processes and their environment. Decisions to
train a team for
the purpose of improving knowledge diffusion or to hire a person because
of her knowledge are KM decisions. "Improving the
environment" might involve restructuring it so that managers can
better access the right knowledge at the right time in order to make better
uses the word management in two different ways: informal and formal.
management represents the natural governance of human processes within a
collective. These processes exist without
intentionally controlling or monitoring them. Rather, the processes are an
emergent property resulting from various forces and activities such as
authority, leadership, influence, peer pressure, and norms.
planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling knowledge.
deals with knowledge processes by changing a knowledge
environment. There are three
primary processes, each with several sub-processes: knowledge production, knowledge acquisition, knowledge diffusion, and
Knowledge production is a process that
creates new knowledge through the reconstruction of older concepts as well
as the invention of new ones.
Knowledge Management can be compared to managing the processes of a factory producing
widgets, with humans being the factories and knowledge being the widget.
a natural resource that we create just as water is a natural resource
created by the ecological system. Managing knowledge is like managing
water. It cannot be managed directly, but we can refine it, reroute it,
filter it, guide it, etc.
Knowledge Factory Model illustrates how knowledge is a product that can be produced, moved, inspected, rejected, and
valued, just as a widget in a factory.
For firms to become maximally competitive,
they must look at themselves as knowledge factories.
Scientific labs, universities, consulting
firms, and other organizations are in the business of manufacturing knowledge
so others can use it. Consumers of knowledge have the right to demand better,
cheaper, more functional knowledge from these knowledge factories.
on shortening the cycle-time of product production. In KM, determining the current state of the
company, its processes, and its technology are only preliminary steps to
real purpose of KM: measuring the
speed of improvement.
By treating knowledge as a product under the same rules as
any other product, the goals of Knowledge Management are to reduce cycle-time, improve quality, etc.
to popular belief, knowledge is not discovered like diamonds or oil. It is
constructed from concepts that we already have through further observation of
objects and events. In addition, "newness" depends on perspective.
What might be new for one person
might be old to another. KM distinguishes between
personal, group, organizational, and global knowledge creation. This
distinction is especially important when discussing knowledge production
within a business.
All knowledge creation
group, organization, and global) occurs through learning. When an individual learns, he creates
knowledge even though that
knowledge might not be new to other individuals. Collective knowledge
creation is when a
-- a set of rules believed to be true -- is either submitted to the group by an
individual or the group co-creates the knowledge claim through
collaboration. In this sense, a group learns. The group’s knowledge
might or might not be new to other groups within an organization. If it is
new, and a substantial number of peer groups believe the knowledge claim to
be true, then the knowledge claim becomes organizational knowledge, and thus
the organization learns. If enough peer groups in various organizations
believe the knowledge claim to be true, then it becomes global knowledge,
and thus the world learns. This last process is one of the aims of science.
a final analogy, a factory has customers, assemblers, deliverers, inspectors, a warehouse of
components, an engineering department for customizing an order to satisfy a
customer's needs, etc. In the same way, a knowledge factory has customers with knowledge needs, those who assemble the knowledge already in the warehouse, people who deliver knowledge, innovators (those who create new knowledge), and knowledge quality inspectors.
When a question is asked or a hypothesis is developed, one step in
knowledge production is to search for and retrieve older knowledge claims to
try to prove the new hypothesis. New knowledge is created when new concepts are
reformulated from older concepts. The formulation can produce leaps of knowledge or
small improvements to current concepts that increase their explanatory and
Knowledge claims are constructed from other knowledge claims,
ideas, data, and records.
The creation of a knowledge claim is fed by a
chain of knowledge, information, and data.
example, a knowledge claim can be constructed through knowledge gathering
from classes/training, experts, seminars, previous knowledge, assumptions,
social network, literature, etc., or a combination of these.
By owning a supply chain of knowledge, you
can assemble many components, in various ways, and build a “stock” of
knowledge. Hence, through this knowledge stock, you are able to
re-harvest your stock over and over again, into a number of combinations,
and move the new knowledge claims out into the market.
is a diagram of a software engineer creating
new knowledge claims from a supply of other
knowledge claims, data and information.
quality of the supporting data, information, and knowledge claims affect the
quality of new Knowledge Claims.
further removed the claim is from Data and Records, the weaker the claim is.
In this example, Knowledge Claim 3 is a weaker claim than Knowledge
leaving the factory "model," remember that this same knowledge production
process can also go on in a “factory within a factory” such as a
research and development department within the car factory or any
department within a larger organization.
Every organization creates new knowledge.
Many organizations deliberately set aside research and development
programs for this. This
knowledge production system is the knowledge factory within the
organization creates new knowledge.
organizations deliberately set aside research and development programs
for this practice.
knowledge production system is the knowledge factory within an organization.
is essentially a “claim” to be knowledge.
Knowledge to one person is not necessarily knowledge to another.
To be accepted as knowledge, a knowledge claim must be validated by
another way, a knowledge claim is a message in a codified form with enough
information for another person to understand and act on.
The amount of information needed to transfer it varies from person to
person. A knowledge claim is
rule-based, that is, it can be put into an if/then statement – if A and B
then C. (More on these
rules in the next module of this course).
Also, a knowledge claim does not have to be linear logic; it can be based on probability or “fuzzy logic.”
process of knowledge formulation or creation produces new knowledge claims
composed of rule sets from older rule structures. Observing, hypothesizing,
experimenting, brainstorming, and codifying tacit knowledge creates new
ideas, which become concepts, which become knowledge claims, which go through
a validation process to become new knowledge.
extremely important activity in knowledge management is the improvement of
the organization's validation process.
determine the validity of a knowledge claim, it must be judged or weighed
against certain criteria. Although a set of knowledge claims may be judged as valid, their
individual values may not be the same.
faced with conflicting knowledge claims, we make a choice based on how it
matches our validation criteria.
criteria used to validate a knowledge claim are standards and
conditions unique to the individual or group seeking to validate the claim.
Some examples of these criteria include:
Questionable Analogy (falsely
comparing or stretching the comparison of two things)
Provincialism (failure to look beyond one's own
Domino Theory (the
conclusion that if A falls, then B falls, then C, and others
will also fall)
Understandability (how understandable is the knowledge
claim to a given audience with a given background)
relevant is the knowledge claim to a given condition).
For knowledge to increase in quality and power, it needs to be
continually tested, improved or removed. Knowledge statements can be
shortened, steps in a process
can be reduced, and knowledge that was once
relevant might become dated due to changing conditions, and therefore could
a knowledge statement changes in a significant way, it can become new
knowledge. If a routine for creating bread was shortened from
10 steps to 9 steps with the same output, this compression produced a new
knowledge claim that only 9 instead of 10 steps are required. Once it is
validated, the old knowledge is replaced by the new.
Refinement leads to reformulating a new knowledge claim which requires a new
process of testing and validation.
Knowledge claims are in constant competition with other claims.
Individuals try to sell (convince) a knowledge claim to their group or team.
If the group accepts that claim, the group might try to sell that claim to other groups.
Eventually, a majority of an organization, community, or world might accept that claim.
The claim that the earth is round took many generations for it to be accepted by a majority of people.
Some people still believe that this knowledge claim is false, such as the Flat Earth Society in England.
measure the quality of knowledge by its ability to help an individual or
organization achieve its goals faster and more effectively.
An organization uses its filtering process to accept or suppress
order to fully understand the concept of a knowledge claim receiving
acceptance in an organization, try the Knowledge Claim Game. Wad up different sized pieces of paper and place a target (such as a wastebasket) at a somewhat difficult
from you in the room. Instruct co-workers or associates to do the same
thing. Now, begin throwing all the balls into the wastebasket.
what you saw was this:
balls make it to the target.
are knowledge claims that find their way to the right person.
balls bounce and land on the floor.
These represent knowledge claims that never found their way to the
some people did not throw their balls as instructed. This is an example of knowledge hoarding.
may bounce towards another person who then relayed them to the
ultimate target. This is an
example of people relaying knowledge claims.
determine the quality of a valid knowledge claim, it must be weighed against
the values of other claims and against the criteria used to weigh it.
The quality of a knowledge claim is further dependent on the accuracy
of the criteria used to weigh it.
quality of a knowledge claim can be compared to that of a car. The quality
of the car is directly related to its ability to satisfy the consumer buying
and driving it, while
the quality of a knowledge claim is directly related
to its ability to satisfy the consumer of that claim. Just like products
from a automobile company, the value of knowledge is based on its relevant
conditions and environments. For example, a car works well traveling on a
smooth road, while a truck is valuable for hauling on rougher roads, and a
Jeep is most appropriate for off-road driving. Likewise, knowledge that is
effective in one situation might not be as effective in another. Business
decisions made in an Eastern culture, for instance, might not be valid in a
Western culture due to the different societal rules.
the value of a knowledge claim can vary by environment and conditions.
are just some of the attributes that determine the quality of knowledge:
relative advantage over previous knowledge
with previous knowledge
- results of the knowledge can be observed
- ability to do more with less
Knowledge claims have both a degree of utility and a degree of satisfaction.
Knowledge is created from other data and knowledge claims.
The quality of a new claim is affected by the quality of the data and
claims from which it is built. Claims
built on other claims are weaker than those built on direct data.
Improving the quality of knowledge and data and the speed by which it
is supplied to the innovator accelerates the knowledge production process.
measure the quality of knowledge by its ability to help an individual or
organization achieve its goals faster and more effectively.
Discovering the right combination of attributes to attain the highest
quality is the challenge for KM.
the attributes vary per context, knowledge might be of high quality in one
context and low quality in another.
key to Knowledge Management is to identify the criteria that individuals and
organizations use to judge the value of one knowledge claim over another.
Once the criteria are identified, the improvement of an organization's claim
validation process –
accomplished by uncovering these criteria, improving
them, and developing systems to manage knowledge based on them –
single most important activity in Knowledge Management.
claims go through a process of refinement by testing them with experience,
in a laboratory, or in the field, and submitting claims as trial balloons to
peers for co-testing, review, and comment.
Once a cluster of concepts becomes a knowledge claim through testing, it
needs to go through an empirical and social validation process.
individual can test her knowledge claim by testing it empirically. If
she believes that the desk is 10 feet from the door, all she has to do is
measure the distance with a tape measure to validate
Group acceptance of a claim as knowledge requires both empirical and political testing.
Even though the individual is convinced that the knowledge is valid, the
group will weigh many factors, such as the reliability of the measure and
the authority and
expertise of the source. The group could also empirically test the claim.
Once the majority of the group accepts a knowledge claim, it becomes
accepted knowledge for that group.
Once a knowledge claim is formulated, the author must sell the
claim to others. This requires sharing the knowledge claim in spoken or
written form to peers, a group, a team, an organization, or a society.
Knowledge claims may be discovered as powerful long after their creation because the author was not good at selling
them when they were originally formulated. Many claims have also been successfully sold
and later refuted.
key component in selling a knowledge claim is having a knowledge validation
strategy. This consists of two
criteria to determine the quality of the knowledge.
criteria for routing the knowledge to the right person at the right
single most important activity of a professional Knowledge Manager is to
develop a knowledge validation strategy.
acquisition presupposes that knowledge already exists and that there is a
desire to capture that knowledge because of some perceived benefit for the
acquirer. The company might, for example, want to capture the knowledge of
another firm by acquiring the firm, hiring employees from that firm, reverse
engineering one of their products, or
reconstructing the knowledge by examining papers and articles published by
the firm because it is perceived that there is important knowledge to be
A vast sea of written and verbal information is recorded on video, audio,
and written format. There are billions of lines of software code with
scientific and corporate procedural knowledge taken from countless
interviews and validation. There are billions of documents and images, of
which perhaps only 1% contain original knowledge.
down that information into rules is a gigantic task that will require
advances in technology. Although artificial KM is in its infancy,
computer-based technology such as documentation managers, automated
knowledge acquisition, scanners, voice scrubbers, optical character readers,
and parsers have helped the process. Using this technology can help extract
knowledge from codified sources.
is the unspoken, non-codified sum of all the
know-how, skills, and experience of individuals. What makes a good teacher, writer, scientist, manager,
or worker is
often locked up in the unspoken procedural and declarative rules
of the individual.
firms look for ways to extract knowledge from an employee or consultant
before he leaves the company or changes positions, the firm is trying to
recover knowledge that would take time and money to replace.
knowledge is also a primary source for new knowledge in the knowledge
production process. By careful observation, questioning, and validation, the
unrecorded know-how of an individual can be codified and turned into new knowledge.
if vast pools of high-quality knowledge exist, the knowledge is worthless without effective
diffusion. A considerable amount of research
has been devoted to this area in education and training. There are also anthropologists interested in the diffusion of knowledge from one culture
diffusion is the process by which a piece of new knowledge is
communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a
social system. This can occur in many different ways.
Diffusing knowledge effectively from an expert to a novice is an ancient
method of knowledge diffusion. Some teachers can transfer knowledge faster and
better than others can. Training teachers how to teach more effectively can
reduce time and money needed on organizational education programs.
People share ideas and knowledge claims with other people.
Although there are many
cultural and legal issues that prevent the free flow of knowledge claims
through sharing, facilitation, legal precedence and new reward
will improve the process.
This ancient technique of transmitting multiple dimensions of
knowledge has many possible applications in the business arena.
Writing in a way that reduces the cognitive load of the reader
while maximizing understanding is a skill. Teaching business writers better
techniques can result in more understandable documents.
Engineering the environment to expose knowledge workers to high quality
sources of knowledge, understanding how to develop high quality knowledge
sources, and knowing how to engineer organizational environments requires