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An Overview of Knowledge Management Technologies

Knowledge Management is a set of systematic and disciplined actions that are taken in an organization to obtain the greatest value from the knowledge available to it. Knowledge includes both the experience and understanding of the people in the organization and the information artifacts, such as documents and reports, available both within and outside the organization. Effective knowledge management typically requires an appropriate combination of organizational, social, and managerial initiatives along with the deployment of appropriate technology. The Knowledge management technologies help assess the actual or potential contribution of these technologies to the basic process of knowledge creation and sharing within organizations.

The Knowledge management technologies can be classified into two based on knowledge. The categories include tacit or implicit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is derived from experience and embodies beliefs and values. Tacit knowledge is actionable knowledge, and so is the most valuable. In addition, tacit knowledge is the most important basis for the generation of new knowledge. Explicit knowledge is represented by some artifacts, such as a document or a video, which has been created with the goal of communicating with another person. Both the tacit and explicit knowledge are important for effective working of any organization.

There are certain processes by which knowledge is transformed between its tacit and explicit forms. The learning process in an organization takes place with the participation of the individuals of the organizations in these processes. This ensures that the knowledge is shared, articulated, and is made available to others. The processes by which knowledge gets transformed within and between forms that can be used by the people of an organization include socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization. Creation of new knowledge takes place through the processes of combination and internalization. Now let us see each of these processes briefly.

The socialization process transforms knowledge within the tacit knowledge form. Socialization includes the shared formation and communication of tacit knowledge between people, for example, in meetings. In this process, knowledge sharing takes place without the production of explicit knowledge between people who have a common culture and can work together effectively. As a result, tacit knowledge sharing is connected to ideas of communities and collaboration. A typical activity in which tacit knowledge sharing can take place is a team meeting during which experiences are described and discussed.

The externalization process transforms knowledge from the tacit to explicit knowledge form. The nature of tacit knowledge makes it difficult to convert the tacit knowledge form to explicit knowledge form. Through conceptualization, elicitation, and articulation in collaboration with others, some proportion of the tacit knowledge of an individual may be captured in explicit knowledge form. Some of the typical activities in which the conversion of tacit knowledge form to the explicit knowledge form takes place are in a dialog among team members, in responding to questions, or through the elicitation of stories.

The combination process transforms knowledge within the explicit knowledge form. Explicit knowledge can be shared in meetings, via documents, e-mails, etc., or through education and training. The use of technology to manage and search collections of explicit knowledge is well established. However, there is a further opportunity to foster knowledge creation, to enrich the collected information in some way, such as by reconfiguring it, so that it is more usable. For example, text classification can be used to assign documents automatically to a subject schema. A typical activity in this process is to put a document into a shared database.

The internalization process transforms knowledge from the explicit to tacit knowledge form. To work on the information, individuals have to understand and internalize the information, which involves creating their own tacit knowledge. They can to some extent re-experience what others previously learned, by reading the documents. By reading documents from many sources, they have the opportunity to create new knowledge by combining their existing tacit knowledge with the knowledge of others. However, this process is becoming more challenging because individuals have to deal with the ever increasing amounts of information. A typical activity would be to read and study documents from a number of different databases.

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