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By Bray J. Brockbank
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the business world saw the emergence of new
Internet capabilities, models, and technologies. Many of these technologies
were marketed as the 'silver bullet' solution to more effectively interact and
manage relationships with customers and partners, address value chain
challenges, manage organizational knowledge, transform business models
and processes, and manage organizational knowledge.
At the time, knowledge management (KM) was marketed as one of the
'silver bullet' solution technologies and models. Early knowledge management
approaches, technologies, models, and expectations were immature,
requiring considerable experimentation and risk-taking by the investing
Even though most of the new technologies and models of the time were
unproven, organizations were quick to adopt them because of growing
competitive pressure to 'e-enable' their processes and operations.
Perception at the time was, "No time to think, only act." Unfortunately,
too much time and money was wasted on putting a knowledge management
system in place instead of a knowledge channeling system.
Those organizations that implemented KM systems will now need to
reflect on creating a knowledge channeling (KC) process to better deliver
the knowledge that they have gathered and manage.
The confusion between `knowledge management' and `knowledge channeling'
has caused executives and managers to waste literally billions of dollars on
technology projects that have, for the most part, yielded marginal results.
Over the past few years, executives and managers have jumped into knowledge
management without knowing or defining what knowledge is or what to do with it.
This approach is dangerous, costly and highly ineffective.
Knowledge can't be 'managed' by an organization. Organizations should
focus primarily on creating, recognizing, capturing, organizing, and
channeling their knowledge.
Knowledge isn't Universal
In today's knowledge-driven economy, organizations ultimately derive their
value from intellectual and knowledge-based assets rather than physical
assets. To get the optimal value from an organization's intellectual assets,
knowledge channeling maintains that knowledge must be shared and serve
as the foundation for collaboration. The ultimate goal of knowledge channeling
is quality, not quantity.
Value created from intellectual and knowledge-based assets involves
disseminating or 'channeling' knowledge to employees, partners, suppliers,
and even across barriers to other organizations in an effort to generate
best practices and synergistic value. Three basic premises must be
understood by the organization for the channeling to succeed:
1. Knowledge isn't universal. There's no consensus as to what constitutes
knowledge -- no universal template for recognizing or creating it either.
2. Knowledge isn't static. Knowledge is organic and evolutionary.
3. Not all knowledge is valuable. Organizations need to determine what
information is an intellectual and knowledge-based asset.
Intellectual and knowledge-based assets can be categorized into one of
two categories: explicit or tacit.
Explicit knowledge. Includes assets such as patents, trademarks, copyrights,
business plans, and marketing research. Explicit knowledge includes
anything that can be documented, archived and codified.
Tacit knowledge. The know-how or information that constitutes knowledge
resides in the 'minds' of people. Information technology can help facilitate
the channeling of tacit knowledge through e-mail, instant messaging,
groupware, and collaborative technologies.
It's important to recognize the value of technology access and utilization
for the individuals, organizations and communities who participate in the
knowledge creation and channeling processes, and all of those affected by
such processes. However, future developments in knowledge channeling
systems have to consider two key issues: knowledge is organic and evolutionary.
Therefore the channeling process must be focused and immediate to be of
value to an organization.
Knowledge creation is a dynamic process. Knowledge is created and recreated
in various contexts and at various periods of time. It is a process by which
organizations create 'added value' from their intellectual and knowledge-based
assets. This added value is realized through recognizing, organizing and
channeling critical knowledge to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.
Unlike information, knowledge is rooted in people. Knowledge is created
through the process of social interaction.
Knowledge channeling is not a technology-based organizational solution
or concept. Organizations that implement a centralized database system,
electronic message board, Web portal or any other collaborative tool in
the hope that they've established a knowledge management program are
wasting both their time and money.
While technology can support knowledge channeling, it's not the starting
point of a knowledge channeling program. Knowledge channeling decisions
should be based on:
1. who (people)
2. when (it will take place)
3. where (it will be channeled)
4. what (intellectual / knowledge assets)
5. why (objectives defined)
6. how (methodology, technology)
In an environment where an individual's knowledge is valued and rewarded,
establishing a culture that recognizes tacit knowledge and encourages
employees to share it is critical to organizational success.
Organizations need to advertise the knowledge channeling concept as a
value added benefit to them and their work. After all, employees are being
asked to give up their personal knowledge and experience -- the qualities
that make them invaluable as individuals to the organization.
Knowledge isn't static. Some knowledge has little or no shelf life. It outlives
its value and becomes obsolete. Its value can erode over time. Therefore,
'knowledge' should be constantly reviewed, analyzed, updated, amended
and if necessary, discarded. Organizational management must look at
knowledge channeling as a constantly evolving business practice and process.
Common Knowledge Mistakes
Organizations tend to fall into the following categories:
1. Those who depend primarily on information technologies (IT) for maintaining
the organization's competitive edge.
2. And those who depend upon people and their training through existing
educational, organizational and business models to maintain their competitive edge.
Simply stated, the business world has moved to an era when 'right answers'
in one time and context will undoubtedly become wrong answers or solutions
in another time and context. Similarly, unless 'best practices' are repeatedly
analyzed for their relevance, they may become 'worst practices' - obstructing
organizational performance and competence.
For channeling to be effective, knowledge speed and connectivity must be
the mind-set of senior management.
What's needed for organizations to succeed? I suggest that a complete
reinvention of the organization is needed. Knowledge channeling isn't merely
a technology problem, but a matter of reinventing every aspect of the
organization, how it works, thinks, and interacts both internally and
externally. An effective knowledge channeling program should help
an organization do one or more of the following:
1. Father innovation through encouraging innovative ideas
2. Streamline customer service response time
3. Improve revenues by getting products and services to market faster
4. Recognize the value of employees' knowledge and reward them for it
5. Streamline operations and reduce costs by eliminating redundant or
6. Supply knowledge and training to the right people at the right time
An innovative approach to knowledge channeling will result in improved
efficiency, higher productivity and increased revenues in practically any
New Economy Assets
To derive the greatest value from knowledge channeling, organizations
must understand the nature of their knowledge-based assets and how they
link to other mission critical assets and goals. Increased realization of
knowledge as the core competence coupled with recent advances in
information technology such as intranets, World Wide Web, and portals
has better enabled organizations the wherewithal to channel their
knowledge to the right people at the right time.
Bray J. Brockbank is a business and technology integrations consultant
for Learnframe, a leading KnowledgE-commerce (TM) and e-Learning
infrastructure technologies corporation; email@example.com, 800-738-9800.
** Editor: Permanent contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org.**
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