What is Knowledge Management?

Since last I posted, on October 31, 2016 (I can hardly believe that), I have been made Knowledge Manager of my department. When I was getting my PhD, I had never heard of Knowledge Management. This post will provide a bit of information for others who find Knowledge Management an unknown, or a mystery. 

First, much like rhetoric, there is no set Knowledge Management (KM) definition that works for everyone. Part of the reason is because there's no set definition for Knowledge. Back in May, I took a week-long course with the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI).  The pre-course study modules covered definitions of Knowledge in some depth. Once in the course, the class spent an afternoon debating definitions of knowledge, and the importance of differentiating knowledge from information. In one of the modules, the trainer boldly claims, "We don't care about who's definition is best. We care about improving the performance of our organization." He then continues on to say that if we're cornered, the best definition to use it this: "[Knowledge is] understanding gained from experience." While I find KMI's coverage of knowledge, and of knowledge through the ages highly reductionist, they make several valid points. I reduce their points even further to say that knowledge is what people do with information. Without people, information is useless

This means that as a Knowledge Manager, I am managing what people are doing with their information. What does that look like? I imagine it looks very different depending on the company a KM is working for. For me, it means helping teams get their information organized, up-to-date, well presented - and most importantly - shared with other teams who may not even known this information exists. Much of the KM job involves getting people into dialogue with one another. It's proactive. It involves decision-making on the fly. It's what we're trained to do in the English PhD.