The Knowledge Asset – A perspective

Many years ago, when my father was explaining economics to my brother, he used a very interesting analogy, which continues to stick to the mind – “Money is round…so it can roll; money is also flat, so it can be stacked”!  He was explaining the importance of the need for money to flow through the system, while retaining the need to save and keep sufficient reserves.    Looking at it from the perspective of knowledge management, I find that it holds well in the case of knowledge too!  Well, after all it should – Knowledge is wealth!

“Knowledge is sticky.  Without proper processes and enablers, it will not flow” – Carla O’Dell

Research by Kalseth [1] and others have shown that where knowledge management is integrated into the business strategy of the enterprise, and / or is embedded into the core processes of the organization, implementation has been successful, and the organization has been able to realize the benefits of KM.  However, in the absence of this, most efforts have resulted in implementation of huge content management systems with no quantifiable or measurable benefit to the organization.   We see examples of the need to integrate knowledge into the core operational framework everywhere.  In insurance companies for instance, when underwriting a risk, the underwriter applies his prior knowledge about the risk, while determining the type of coverage, and the clauses (or endorsements) to be included.  In order to ensure that the risk is determined correctly, a checklist is essential to capture all the elements of risk.  This checklist is nothing but a list of questions that the underwriter is expected to run through and confirm before deciding to underwrite the risk.  Obviously, this is a list that has been compiled over several years of experience of the organization – knowledge stacked (in a repository).  However, it really begins to work only when, as part of the underwriting process, the underwriter is able to pull out this checklist and verify that all the aspects of the risk have been covered.  Where, the risk is new to the organization (or to the underwriter) he seeks the assistance of experts / colleagues in the organization (knowledge stacked in the heads of people) – which now flows through the organization, as he collaborates with others in the process of discovering the extent of risk.

We clearly see the dual aspects of knowledge too carrying the properties of “being able to be stacked” and “requiring to flow” for organizations to benefit.  Profit from knowledge! Make it part of the core framework of your organization’s processes.  Measure it and manage it, like you do every other process.  Knowledge is everybody’s business.  But, if you intend to treat it like wealth, also make sure you assign a knowledge manager – like you would, a wealth manager.  After all, you do need to make sure, it flows…and it stays!

[1] Kalseth K, Knowledge Management: Development Strategy or Business Strategy. Information Development. 2001, 17:163-172.

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  1. prabhtnp prabhtnp says:

    nice post.