Knowledge Managemet

Mario Pérez-Montoro 
 Incorporated contributions
Pérez-Montoro (11/2009)
 Usage domain
business management, ICT, Information Society
Gestion des connaissances
 German Wissensmanagement
[Understandable but with some grammatical missteps]

In the last decade, a strong movement concerning a new discipline has emerged and developed, focused on the scope of organizations: Knowledge Management. This discipline deals with designing systems and strategies to systematically use the knowledge involved in an organization. Applying the concept of Knowledge Management to the context of companies has been an important source of competitive advantage that can ensure the proper functioning and survival of the companies in the present economic scenario characterized by tough competition and market globalization. 

It is not easy to define Knowledge Management. There is no agreed or shared definition among the entire scientific community (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Davenport and Prusack, 1998; Boisot, 1998; Sveiby, 2001, Wilson 2002).

As a starting point, it should be clarified that it is not easy to speak of Knowledge Management in the abstract. Strictly speaking, only in the context of an organization does it make sense to deal with Knowledge Management.

In a broader sense, each organization is a community or a group of individuals whose members are structured and framed to meet some certain targets. The paradigm of an organization is usually a company (firm), but with this description one can consider other communities of individuals as organizations (not with such financial targets), communities such as a hospital, an NGO, an educative center, a ministry, a research center or a political party.

Given this, Knowledge Management, in an intuitive sense, deals with designing and implementing systems whose goal is to identify, capture and share systematically the involved knowledge in an organization in such a way that it can be converted into a value for the organization. Knowledge, in this context, is all the information assimilated by a subject and oriented toward action. In other words, knowledge is any mental state of a subject (in short, a concrete neuronal provision) that has been caused by a determined information and which allows the subject in question to make certain adequate decisions and carry out practical action derived from the decisions (Audi, 1988; Crayling, 1998). On the other hand, knowledge becomes a value to an organization when it has a clear contribution in achieving the goals of the organization. 

It is possible to enrich and make more operational and functional this first intuitive definition of Knowledge Management if we keep in our mind the existence of different types of knowledge within an organization, and that, therefore, it is essential to respect the special nature of each in order to design the most appropriate management.

In this sense, it is possible to distinguish 6 types of knowledge within an organization. These 6 types can be grouped together in the following three pairs:

(a) Tacit Knowledge /Explicit Knowledge

(b) Individual Knowledge / Organizational or Corporate Knowledge

(c) Internal Knowledge / External Knowledge

Let us begin with the first pair. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that is based on personal experience and in many cases is identified with the skills of the subject. Its main feature is that it is hardly transmissible or communicable; therefore, it is not accessible to the other individuals in a direct way. To show that someone, A, has knowledge of this type, we normally use the expression "A knows P" (where P is usually a verb). In the same way, there are several examples of such knowledge: knowing how to swim, knowing to ride a bicycle, knowing to drive a car, knowing to speak in public or to articulate and lead a group of people.

Explicit knowledge, in contrast, is characterized by being directly encoded in a representation system such as natural language. Thus, it is easily transmitted or communicated and it is accessible to other individuals directly. To show that someone, A, has knowledge of this type we usually use the expression "A knows that P" (where P is usually a statement). Therefore, knowing that water is H2O or knowing that when the photocopying machine has the red light on someone should change the cartridge are two examples of this type of knowledge.

Let us go to the second group of knowledge. For individual knowledge we can understand all knowledge which an individual of an organization possesses. Therefore, the individual knowledge of a person consists of all explicit and tacit knowledge possessed by this member. Individual skills, personal contacts and relationships or technical knowledge that a person posseses can be identified as a part of the individual knowledge that he has.

Conversely, corporate or organizational knowledge is the knowledge that can be attributed to an organization, the owner of the organization. This knowledge is usually physically presented in some kind of document. The databases purchased by an organization or intellectual property and patents that they develop are two clear examples of this type of knowledge.

Finally we have the third last group. The internal knowledge is that knowledge which is critical for the appropriate functioning of an organization. In other words: the knowledge without which it would be impossible for the organization to operate. If we identify a chemical laboratory as an organization, the knowledge possessed by the chemists of this laboratory or the patents developed by them are two good examples of internal knowledge of the organization.

External knowledge, however, is that knowledge that an organization uses to interact with other organizations. The knowledge in the published reports of the organization or on its external website are examples of this last type of knowledge.

With the definition of these six types of knowledge in hand we can propose a much more complex second definition of Knowledge Management in organizations.

In this sense, Knowledge Management within an organization may be understood as the discipline that deals with designing and implementing a system whose main objective is that all tacit, explicit, individual, internal and external knowledge involved in the organization can be converted systematically to an organizational or corporative knowledge, in such a way that the corporate knowledge, being accessible and shared, allows the increase in the individual knowledge of all its members and improves the contribution of these individuals in achieving the goals of their organization directly.

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  • AUDI, R. (1988). Belief, Justification and KnowledgeLondon: Wadsworth Publishing Company. 
  • BOISOT, M. (1998). Knowledge Assets. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • CRAYLING, A. C. (ed.) (1998). PhilosophyOxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • DAVENPORT, T. (1997). Information Ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • DAVENPORT, T. & Prusak, L. (1998). Working Knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 
  • NONAKA, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating CompanyOxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO GUTIÉRREZ, Mario (2008). “Knowledge Management in Organizations”. Torres-Coronas, T. and Arias-Oliva, M. (eds.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Human Resources Information Systems: Challenges in e-HRM.Hershey (Pennsylvania): Information Science Reference (Idea Group).
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO GUTIÉRREZ, Mario (2008). Gestión del Conocimiento en las Organizaciones. Gijón: Trea. 
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO GUTIÉRREZ, Mario (2006). “Gestión del Conocimiento, gestión documental y gestión de contenidos”. Tramullas, Jesús (Coord.) (2006). Tendencias en documentación digital. Gijón: Ediciones Trea, págs. 110-133. 
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO GUTIÉRREZ, Mario (2006). “O Conhecimento e sua Gestão em Organizações”. Tarapanoff, Kira (org.) (2006). Inteligência, informação e conhecimento. Brasilia: IBICT-UNESCO, págs 117-138. 
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO GUTIÉRREZ, Mario (2005). “Sistemas de gestión de contenidos en la gestión del conocimiento”. [En línea]. BiD: textos universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació, juny, núm. 14, 2005. <> [Accesed: 18/07/2005]. 
  • PÉREZ-MONTORO, Mario y MARTINEZ, Jesús (2008). “Success Factors of Communities of Practice in Public Administration: the Case of Catalonia’s Government”. O’Sullivan, Kevin. (ed.) (2008). ICICKM 2008. 5th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational LearningLondon: Academic Conferences Limited Reading, vol. II, págs. 407-414. 
  • SENGE, Peter M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Age and Practice of the Learning Organization.London: Century Business. 
  • STEWART, T. A. (1997). Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of OrganizationsNew York: Currency/Doubleday. 
  • SVEIBY, K. E. (1997). The New Organizational Wealth: Managing and Measuring Knowledge-Based Assets. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. 
  • SVEIBY, K. E. (2001). What is Knowledge Management? Brisbane: Sveiby Knowledge Associates. 
  • TIWANA, A. (ed.) (2002). The Knowledge Management toolkit. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education. 
  • von KROGH, G., ICHIJO, K. & NONAKA, I. (2000). Enabling Knowledge Creation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • WILSON, J. (ed.) (2002). The Practitioner’s Guide to Effective Knowledge Management. Chicago: Melcrum Publishing.

How to cite this article:

Pérez-Montoro Gutiérrez, Mario (ed.) y Golkhosravi, Mehrad (2010). “Knowledge Management”. Díaz Nafría, José María; Pérez-Montoro, Mario y Salto Alemany, Francisco (eds.) (2010). Glossary of concepts, metaphors, theories and problems concerning information. Leon: Universidad de León. 
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