For many decades organizations have dealt with the issue of conceptualizing organizational knowledge. Since the early 1990’s, knowledge management has moved from the leveraging of explicit knowledge to leveraging collective knowledge (Dixion, 2009). The concept of knowledge has been debated by many; however, a conclusion as to how to appropriately manage knowledge within organizations has yet to be determined. Weinberger (2011) suggests that knowledge lives in the network and not in books or people’s heads. Likewise, Weinberger believes that the internet can develop knowledge more than individuals ever can because of the capabilities of hyperlinks, the connectivity and communication that the internet offers people from diverse perspectives, and the cumulative nature of the internet (2011). The social aspect of the internet influences the management of knowledge because it allows a group of experts with diverse perspectives to come together to address a problem and reinforces the idea that people and knowledge is stronger when people are together (Weinberger, 2011). Jarache (2016) encourages the management of knowledge through social learning in which organizational environments encourage social sharing and the use of technology to enhance problem solving, knowledge sharing, and social learning. These contemporary approaches to knowledge management pushes organizations to move away from knowledge management that is static and encourages the management of knowledge through training and a push for competency for individuals by leveraging exploit knowledge because this approach fails to acknowledge the knowledge in people’s heads and the resistance to using he knowledge of others (Dixon, 2009). Instead, the contemporary approaches to knowledge management emphasize leveraging experiential and collective knowledge to address challenging and complex problems by engaging the thoughts of groups over the knowledge of individuals (Dixon, 2009).
At my institution, we recently instituted the “Grocery Store Challenge” which is a campus effort designed to solve an adaptive challenge of the campus community in which there is little agreement on the problem and on how it can be solved (Dixon, 2009). The major issue is that a food desert exists surrounding the University because there is no grocery store within a ten to 15-mile radius of the campus. Our president has invited our campus community to come together as faculty, student and staff to form think groups to contemplate ways in which we can bring a grocery store to campus or the surrounding community. Our President’s approach to trying to solve this difficult issue is to bring together some cognitive diversity and thought to solve the issue with many types of people. This approach to solving the issue emphasizing intra-organizational learning through a networked community and in a collaborative nature with hopes that groups will be better at making decisions and achieving the defined goal (Jarche, 2016). Technology could also serve a role in helping to solve this campus community effort by offering an online community or depository for ideas or suggestions as ways to address this issue, thus bringing together even more diverse perspectives, interpretations, thought in working to solve the problem (Weinberger, 2011).
The internet is a powerful tool in the management of knowledge and encourages the leveraging of collective knowledge; however, some question if the internet is running knowledge management. Davenport (2015) suggests that knowledge management has faded overtime because people have not wanted to search for knowledge, have not wanted to share knowledge, have not wanted to adopt new ways of accessing knowledge. In addition, Davenport believes that the internet has killed knowledge management because it has made knowledge more easily accessible because it makes searching for external knowledge more easy than searching for internal knowledge of an organization (2015). I do believe that the internet has killed knowledge management because it allows knowledge management at many different levels. Through the internet knowledge can be managed at the explicit level, experiential level. And collective level. Other forms of knowledge management simply lack this versatility. Weinberger (2011) offers reasons as to why the internet is so effective as a knowledge management tool including, the large network of connection the internet offers, the cognitive diversity that exists in the network formed over the internet, the ability to connect experts and novice thinkers, and the cumulative nature of the internet. Additionally, the internet reduces the boundaries of collective thought and expertise sharing and moves knowledge away from the static form of knowledge that we once relied upon in the paper format of knowledge (Weinberger, 2011).
As knowledge management evolves I think that leaders play a central role in the future of knowledge management. To push knowledge management to a more collective leverage of knowledge to address adaptive challenges it is important that leaders correctly frame a question to encourage thought about the issue rather than posing a solution or addressing the symptoms of the problem. In addition, leaders have a responsibility to establish an organizational culture that encourages conversation. Moreover, leaders can enhance the ability of members of an organization to engage in conversation by creating the most appropriate physical space for conversation and by encouraging diversity of thought among the people engaged in the conversation (Dixon, 2009). Lastly, it is important that leaders are transparent in the knowledge management process, by providing access to data and all perspectives. For leaders, knowledge management has not disappeared, but rather knowledge management has evolved. Knowledge has evolved in its nature, the experts who hold the knowledge, control, in how it is transferred and how it is created. Leaders are responsible for building and supporting communities that can collectively manage knowledge to meet the challenges of the future.
Davenport, T. H. (24 June, 2015). Whatever happened to knowledge management? The Wall Street Journal. New York: NY.
Dixon, N. (2009). Three eras of knowledge management [blogpost]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/05/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and-where-it-is-going-part-one.html
Jarche, H. (24 February, 2010). A framework for social learning in the enterprise [blogpost]. Retrieved from http://jarche.com/2010/02/a-framework-for-social-learning-in-the-enterprise/
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York, NY: Basic Books.