In any human endeavor (be it related to business or otherwise), there are always several “points of view” or ways of assessing the situation so that the best (or most appropriate) action(s) can be taken. You might also simply call this being informed; in other words, collecting relevant information to enhance the possibility that some positive benefits will come your way by means of better decision making. However, most people might find it surprising to note that many of the decisions that are made throughout our society (as well as in the business world) are made based on emotional thinking and/or instinct. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of approach (after all, it was this kind of reasoning that built our civilization in the first place and led us to this point in time), one might still ask the question “can we do better?”.
So, what does this little foray into philosophical territory have to do with knowledge management? Well, if you really sit down and think about it, knowledge management is actually a full-spectrum “intellectual” approach to improving a business or organization from the inside-out. Regardless of what an institution does, sells or researches, they are beholden to one or more factors – budget, resources, time / deadlines, regulations, etc… In other words, it isn’t possible for a business to extend its reach beyond what it has already been able to grasp without having to devote more time, money or energy. In most cases, business leaders and managers are unwilling to devote additional resources toward potentially risky activities; and rightly so, because that’s often exactly how problems are created.
Through KM (knowledge management) businesses can achieve a much higher level of organization by means of taking control over what is arguably the most valuable asset at their disposal – their collective knowledge. For example, even if a company relies on one or more key individuals, there’s no guarantee that they’re always going to have the perfect solution for every problem. Often times, the best answers can spring up from unexpected sources. Now, if we’re talking about an extremely large corporation that employs thousands of people, you’re going to have issues being resolved on a near daily basis. All the solutions being put forth by the entire workforce are very powerful indeed and clearly need to be considered and stored somewhere so that others can quickly adopt their practices / solutions or achieve additional insight.
In short, knowledge management is perhaps the ultimate approach to “intellectualizing” most business processes. If implemented correctly, KM can help build what one might call “self-sustaining models” which help to reinforce the positive actions of every single individual employed by an organization. You might also visualize knowledge management as a sort of “magnet” for solutions, best practices, and ideas. Once you’ve build a good KM infrastructure, people tend to flock toward it for answers or even guidance.
Similarly, having a basic approach to knowledge management in place means that people in an organization are being pushed away from “guessing”, instead they are being gently nudged toward seeking answers through logic and shared experiences. As was mentioned earlier, a great number of businesses still make most of their decisions without the aid of systematized analysis and/or metrics of any kind. Simply put, KM is both a way of gathering relevant metrics data about what’s going on as well as an approach toward creating better internal processes / practices. In this way, knowledge management is a direct method for improving overall efficiency and preventing big-time risks from taking shape.
Likewise, as the entire world becomes more technological in nature, businesses need to begin thinking about and adopting certain approaches which will help them to capitalize on all this forward progress. The fact of the matter is that concepts like knowledge management allow institutions to keep their entire workforce updated and “plugged in” to whatever’s going on (inside and outside of the company). In industries where change is frequent, like IT, the use of KM is even more beneficial. At the same time, people also need some specific place that’s set aside so that they can voice their concerns and contribute in a very direct way to the progress of their organization – KM definitely fulfills this role.
Furthermore, if you’re the type of individual (perhaps an IT professional) that prides yourself on your ability to make informed decisions, you should consider pursuing a career path that includes knowledge management. Since 2009, the general demand for knowledge management specialists has remained fairly solid and stable. What this means is that companies are continuing to turn toward consultants and professionals who know how to implement KM in businesses (this can also extend to specific departments, like IT, for instance). Needless to say, if you have some form of certification in knowledge management, you should be in good shape and well-prepared to apply for a real career in this area.