101: Redesigning Schools
the Good with the Bad
Tip: Stay In For The Long Haul
Have to Be a Little Different
Few Would deny that we exist in an age of information. Yet how many managers and organizations are fulfilling the responsibilities and responding to the opportunities inherent in our information-intensive business environment? The question is: what are we doing with all this data? Are we using information well - to grow, to improve, to learn, to better serve customers? Do we have command of information or does its growing volume only confuse and therefore limit us? Are we navigating forward or awash in minutia?
At issue here is the concept of knowledge management - the strategic application of collective company knowledge and know-how to build profits and market share. Knowledge management is a key facet of corporate intellect processing, which enables management to 'mine the corporate mind' through the collection, storage, linking, repackaging and dissemination of data, information and knowledge. Through knowledge sharing come knowledge assets - ideas and know-how that breed wisdom and/or wise decision-making. Sure, it all sounds great, but it's not easy.
"To be able to take advantage of the information and knowledge age and advanced technologies means being able to gather, sort, store, cull and disseminate data, information and knowledge," explains Amy Zuckerman, principal of A-Z International, Amherst, Mass., and a knowledge management consultant. Ms. Zuckerman adds, "We have to be able to analyze and break out information into useful units to be applied strategically. All sorts of data and information is meaningless if you can't apply it," says Zuckerman. "You have to know the questions to ask and how to do it."
We're Not There Yet
Although quality system compliance processes, such as ISO
9000, are valuable for documenting work processes and organizing information,
attention must be paid to how skillfully such systems are employed. Zuckerman
suggests many aren't reaching their potential. "Many companies lack
the skills to do information-based work properly. They lack the skills to
take advantage of the technologies they've implanted in their organization.
The technology revolution is emerging at a time when Americans have stopped
reading, let alone writing." The basic lesson here is to not underestimate
the need for strong human systems and skills - writing, editing, organizing,
communicating, perceiving, etc. - as a foundation to the vast array of technological
capabilities now available. In our rapidly advancing society, the basics
The Knowledge Management Process
Beginning with documentation of work procedures and knowledge sharing, which many organization have already accomplished through quality system compliance activities (e.g., ISO 9000, QS 9000), the next step is knowledge processing. Basically, it requires that knowledge be pooled - through meetings, memos, projects - and shared - memos, telephones, more meetings, personal communication. This pooling and sharing process in turn creates even more knowledge assets and know-how, subsequently improving the bottom line. Advanced forms of knowledge processing involve the use of emerging technologies to gather, store, share, quantify and link an organization's knowledge pool. It enables personal knowledge to quickly become company knowledge, and makes it available for selectively sorting, analyzing and applying individual knowledge assets to business objectives for competitive results. At this stage, knowledge management is being fully utilized.
And why is all of this beneficial? Because it actually contributes to profitability. When a company can define their need for knowledge throughout the organization, when it teaches employees to apply knowledge strategically, the following beneficial results can occur:
The lesson to be learned: when knowledge is applied strategically, it can become a profit breeding tool. Knowing how to sort, cull and link knowledge - then analyzing how to best strategically apply it - is what underlies the practice and the potential successes of knowledge management.