How can enterprise knowledge management help companies

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Knowledge is becoming more and more valuable for companies and organizations. But how does a company know what it knows? Know-how in the company is often widely spread and does not cross departmental boundaries. That requires successful knowledge management.

Basically, this means first of all: bundling knowledge, managing it sensibly and uncovering its potential. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Suitable tools, such as social intranets, help to build bridges between islands of knowledge and thereby accelerate business processes.

Knowledge Management - Definition

Knowledge management / knowledge management is about the acquisition, development, transfer, storage and use of knowledge. Knowledge management goes far beyond mere information management. Information is the prerequisite for generating knowledge - but this is not only created by the mere accumulation of information. Rather, we create knowledge when we link information with existing prior knowledge, interpret it and make it usable.

In knowledge management a distinction is made between explicit and implicitKnowledge. The first is also known as "embrained knowledge". This conscious knowledge depends on one's own conceptual abilities and can be activated consciously. One example of this is subject-specific knowledge.

The second type of knowledge is also known as “embodied knowledge”. It is action-oriented and results from previous experiences. This includes cognitive skills, how to deal with concepts and experiences, but also skills such as the manual production of a product. This implicit knowledge cannot be transferred as easily as explicit knowledge, but only through intensive interaction.

Knowledge management is only possible through interaction

The challenge for companies is to generate, organize and utilize the explicit and implicit knowledge that the individual members of the organization have at their disposal. In companies, it is above all tacit knowledge that is a source of competitive advantages. Unfortunately, this is particularly difficult to anchor. The best-known model for knowledge management - the knowledge spiral of Nonaka and Takeuchi - assumes that organization-wide knowledge can only arise through the continuous exchange between explicit and implicit knowledge of the individual organization members.

So much for dry theory, now on to practice. Because the real question for companies is: How do we know what we know (and how do we use that as a competitive advantage)?

If we knew what we know ...

In all organizations and companies, knowledge is available in the personal knowledge base of the employees. However, this knowledge is often only used to a limited extent. A tried and tested means of accessing it is social software, for example within an intranet.

Because personal knowledge comes to light when it is needed in interactions. For example, when an employee asks a question on a social intranet and someone else reads it and can answer it. Previously “unknown” stocks of knowledge are also used in this way.

Finding experts in companies can be accelerated by the functions familiar from social networks, such as activity streams or team chat. Social software can also support the flow of information across hierarchical levels and departmental boundaries.

In all of this, the aspect of corporate culture should by no means be underestimated. Knowledge management can only succeed in a culture of active exchange. This means that knowledge should be treated - at least within the company - as an anti-rival good.

Social Collaboration: Rescue from the lonely island of knowledge

The hierarchical structure of the organizational chart does not reflect actual practice in many companies. A closer look reveals an informal network among employees, through which a large part of the service is provided. The exchange within this network can be supported by social collaboration software.

Digital project groups are a great way to organize knowledge work. They enable direct communication and an easy exchange of documents. As a result, knowledge is enriched here. Over time, the contributions of the group members form a collection of topic-specific knowledge, which can then be transferred to a wiki. Similar projects can, in turn, fall back on this central knowledge repository.

View and secure knowledge

Knowledge databases based on the wiki principle make it possible to save, categorize and make accessible explicit specialist knowledge and documents. Categorizations and links within the articles organize the knowledge. A lengthy search for information is no longer necessary. Knowledge and documents of all kinds are managed centrally and can be accessed at any time. In this way, the loss of know-how (e.g. due to the departure of employees) can be reduced.

Only when the functions of social collaboration and wikis are linked do they fully exploit their strengths in knowledge management. The synergies that arise between them promote the transfer of tacit and explicit knowledge. This applies in particular to companies with several locations or associations from many individual institutions.

Knowledge management in the digital workplace

Last but not least, successful knowledge management is an important aspect of an overarching "Digital Workplace" concept. Because such a digital workplace has one goal: The right information reaches the right people at the right time. The resources of knowledge, experience and creativity are easily accessible here and can be used quickly. For example, a digital workplace can simplify the company-wide search for experts and the subsequent communication.