INFS 834

Yahoo! Call it a dry run for MWAIS: here’s my slideshow on SPN in KM! It should have audio; if it doesn’t, contact me and complain, and I’ll fix it!

Practicing What We Preach: Narrative in Knowledge Management

Here in three parts is the article review/presentation I prepared for INFS 834, Knowledge Management. Following the videos is the text of the original review text.

Part 1:


Dr. Sarnikar asks this question on our first assignment for KM class:

What is knowledge sharing as opposed to knowledge application?

I reply thus, with an example Toby will love:

Knowledge sharing is a deliberate effort to spread organizational knowledge among members. Knowledge application seeks to spread the fruits of that knowledge while not necessarily transferring the knowledge itself.

For instance, when I hired a new assistant to join me in running an oral interp contest, I helped that assistant learn how to perform the diagonal section generation manually. That assistant can now generate sections for oral interp rounds and explain the logic the diagonal process uses. If I stepped out and left my assistant to run the tournament, he could train an assistant of his own to do the same task. That’s knowledge sharing.

Now my assistant and I could encapsulate diagonal section generation in a VBA Excel macro. At that point, we could ask a new assistant to generate sections simply by hitting the macro button on the tournament spreadsheet. At that point, we would be applying knowledge, giving the new assistant the ability to carry out the task made possible by our knowledge of diagonal section generation. We would not, however, be sharing our knowledge: pressing the macro button does not equip our new assistant with the knowledge necessary to teach others to generate sections without the spreadsheet.

[One note of hilarity: I am the only on-campus student! Everyone else is taking this course online!]

INFS 834 is one of the core courses for my specialization in the D.Sc.IS program (so pay attention!).


  • Why Knowledge Management (KM)?
  • What is Knowledge? (oh, philosophy!)
  • What is KM?

Office Hours: T 5-7, W 3-5

Remember: Dr. Sarnikar‘s research area is KM/KMS! 12 publications so far.

Course Structure:

  • First four classes: mostly lecture (Fundamentals)
  • Next four: more seminar! students present, discuss online (Research)

Reading List: Lots of articles to be posted on D2L

Supplementary Material:

  • don’t forget the recommended text: Irma Becerra-Fernandez, Avelino Gonzalez, and Rajiv Sabherwal, Knowledge Management and KM Software Package. Consider it required if KM is your specialization (Cor, that means you).
  • Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak, Working Knowledge: How Organiations Manage What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, 1998.
  • Handbook on Knowledge Management Vol. 1 & 2,  Clyde Holsapple, Ed., Springer, 2004.
  • Nonaka and Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, 1995. Cited all the time!

What we have to do:

  • 5 assignments (60% of grade)
    1. KM Overview (Due Feb 11)
    2. KM: Impact and Assessment (Feb 25)
    3. KMS (Mar 18 )
    4. KM Paper Review (Mar 18 )
      • Select paper from reading list (30 to choose from) or suggest paper not on list (pending instructor approval)
      • review and present (in class, Elluminate, or PowerPoint)
    5. KM Special Topics (Apr 1…  not kidding!)
  • mid term (20%)
  • research paper and presentation (20%)
    • 2500 research-in-progress paper
    • Draft paper (100 words) discussing motivation, research question, methodology, expected results, etc. due march 15 (5%)
    • Final paper due May 6 (10%)
    • Present in class April 29 (5%)

Why Knowledge Management?

David DeLong, Lost Knowledge, Oxford, 2004: discusses knowledge from Apollo project; NASA can’t do it now! Saturn V engineers were encouraged to take early retirement, we lost the Saturn V blueprints…

Same thing happened with the Pyramids and Stonehenge. (Will we one day think the Apollo project was made possible by alien intervention?)

Drucker, 1994: “Knowledge has become the key resource for a nation’s military strength as well as for its economic strength.” Remember or die.

Resource-based view of the firm: firms exist because they have certain resources that give them competitive advantage. Those resources used to be equipment. Now it’s knowledge. (There is also a knowledge-based view of the firm….)

What is KM?


  • doing what is needed to get the most out of knowledge resources
  • making knowledge available whenever and wherever it’s needed

Four Forces Driving KM:

  1. Increasing domain complexity: each field gets more complicated, more competitive, uses rapidly advancing tech.
    • Requires folks with advanced degrees, good communication skills
    • Team/collaboration skills!
    • Sarnikar gives example of friend working at Ford: 2000 really smart people (this doesn’t count the gofers) involved in designing the Fusion; friend’s job focused on calculating reliability of vehicle for warranty purposes
  2. Accelerating market volatility: stock prices change faster, companies go boom or bust (which seems odd, considering that with our increased information capacity, we’d see a collapse coming, but evidently increased information means investors can act faster on news)
    • Consider that Yahoo was the only dot-com company to ride out the 2000 bust making money, and now Yahoo’s viability is in question
    • Companies must be able to adapt quickly to survive
  3. Intensified speed of responsiveness: Less time available to act on subtle changes within and across domains. Act now or lose!
    • iPod and iPhone were radical innovations, but didn’t enjoy a lot of time without competing products. First-mover advantage fades much more quickly now.
  4. Diminishing individual experience: high employee turnover rates means decision-makers have less experience than predecessors
    • CEOs have shorter tenure: haven’t been around to learn as much about the company; KM must fill in gaps

Those four forces leave managers feeling less adequate to making difficult decisions. KM to the rescue!

KM supplements the experience you lose through turnover and downsizing

KM for everybody? Yes!

  • Every decision maker faces the above pressures. We all have to act faster, make better calls.
  • decisions can have bigger impact (really? more so than in past? perhaps so: that’s what we get for all our interconnectivity)

Knowledge Management Systems (this is what we are here to develop!)

  • interdisciplinary domain (music to my ears)
  • management scientists did the heavy lifting in this field in the past
  • past two decades: we IS guys are picking up the slack, since IS makes possible many more forms of KM
  • IT facilitates sharing and faster growth of knowledge
  • IT moves knowledge faster, more efficiently
  • remember: we estimate knowledge doubles every 18 months: we need a computer (and a Web) to keep track!
  • KM mechanisms are organizational or structural means to promote KM
  • using leading edge IT allows dramatic improvement in KM
  • KMS: synergy between latest tech and social/structural mechanisms

KMS Classifications:

  1. K discovery systems
  2. K capture S
  3. K sharing S
  4. K application S

Artifical intelligence and machine learning tech important; also have experience-based systems

Effective KM: 80% human/org, 20% tech (more bang from managing/controlling human factors than tech factors… but let’s hope you can do both)

  • CRM system: sales force enters info about customers, leads, etc. (This happened at Oracle.) But if sales reps aren’t willing to share that advantageous info, fancy tech won’t do any good. What’s good for the org may not be good for the indiv; getting indiv workers to see the overlap in indiv and common good may require a culture change.

Essence of KM:

  1. KM meth must first encourage people to create more K
  2. Must find ways to draw out and reuse K
  3. must celebrate and recognize knowledge owners as experts; don’t distance KM from K producers! KMS is not a blast furnace into which the slaves must dump their heavy loads of fuel on pain of death.

What Is Knowledge?

Data: facts, observations, raw numbers, assertions

Information: processed data; arguably a subset of data (just the data that matters in a given context)

Knowledge: lots of defs!

  • justified true belief (Nonaka and Takeuchi)
    • so what’s the important distinction between justified and true?
  • K ≠ data and info!
  • K richest, deepest, most valuable of K, D, and I
  • K sometimes thought of as vector information with direction (for action!)
  • K is about the relationship between concepts
  • D, I, and K form a hierarchy based on importance. The most important information or knowledge is closest to the point of decision-making, the inof/K that tells us what to do

Alternative Views of K

  • Subjective View of Knowledge:
    1. K as state of mind (indivs!)
    2. K as practice (held by group, cannot be decomposed, exhibited in action)
  • Objective View of Knowledge (preferred by most IS researchers)
    1. K as objects (books, documents)
    2. K as access to info (not an object, but condition of access to that object; it only becomes knowledge when someone gets their hands/brains on it!)
    3. K as capability (K doesn’t just sit there; it does something… or let’s you do something)

Types of K

  1. Procedural/Declarative:
    1. Dec focuses on beliefs about relationships among variables (know-what)
      1. “These are the parts of a bicycle.”
    2. Proc focuses on beliefs about relating sequences of steps or actions to desired (or undesired) outcomes  (know-how)
      1. “To ride a bicycle, first you must… then….”
  2. Tacit/Explicit:
    1. tacit: insights, intuitions, hunches,… Sarnikar adds experience… and then says “anything that’s in a human mind is tacit knowledge” [uh oh! from an applied point of view, that last part is o.k., but in an academic paper, you’d better tighten up the definition!]
    2. explicit: expressible in words, numbers, pix, etc.
    3. Oh! Some say you can turn explicit into tacit knowledge! Sarnikar and I hash it out a bit. It sounds like a translation issue: I have an explicit chunk of knowledge (a set of instructions). A worker reads those instructions, takes in the instructions, but that worker’s copy is a tacit copy. I’m not buying it: tacit is the fuzzy stuff. Explicit is the written stuff. If you read it to learn it, it’s explicit. Whatever insights, intuition, experiences, interpretations you pile on top of it—that’s your tacti business. But the core of what you learned is still explicit, whether it’s in your head or not.
  3. General/Specific
    1. General: lots of people have it
    2. Specific: very few people have it
      1. Technically specific: tools, techniques, specific field
      2. Contextually specific: time and place, situation, policies, organization, culture

Knowledge and Expertise (it’s good to be smart!)

Expertise: knowledge of higher quality

Expert: someone who can do something much better than others

K also can be simple/complex, operational/tactical/strategic…

Reservoirs of Knowledge: People (indivs and groups), Artifacts (practices, technologies, repositories), Organizational Entities (units, whole orgs, inter-org networks [e.g., the supply chain!])

Characteristics of Knowledge: [uh oh: this is the part where the book sounds like it is repeating itself in places]

  1. Explicitness [repeat]
  2. Codifiability
  3. Teachability
  4. Specificity

What Is Knowledge Management?

KM is about corraling the K you have and looking for the K you can get from others

KM includes processes, systems, mechanisms & technologies, and infrastructure!

  • Start with infrastructure
    • not just IT! (data processing, storage, communication)
      • evaluate in terms of four criteria:

        • reach (who’s got it)
        • depth (how much can you transmit: bandwidth)
        • richness (what cues can we transmit? media richness: audio, video, social presence…)
        • aggregation (processing power: how much data can you hold, process….)
    • also org culture (norms and beliefs guiding behavior of members; this is where you want folks valuing KM practices, support from management, incentives for K sharing, encouragement of interaction and sharing for K creation/discovery)
    • org structure (hierarchy affects interactions, dictates likely channels for K transfer; if the mail room guy can talk to the CEO, the KM consultant should know that and take advantage of that)
    • common knowledge (like Tablets at DSU)
    • physical environment (furniture, rooms, buildings, campus, design, space)
      • 1998 study found employees think they get most of their K from informal conversations at water cooler, lunch, other gathering spots rather than manuals and other formal mechanisms… so think about that when you design a building (holy cow: KM expert gets to play architect… or at least interior designer)
  • build mech/tech on top: those two together give you your system, which supports the processes

Processes (these are a big deal! These are what we do in KM!):

  1. Discovery: creating new K!
    • achieved thru combination (I know X and Y… hey! that means Z! usu explicit + explicit = more explicit)
    • and socialization (interaction among workers; tacit + tacit = more tacit)
    • Example: collaborative writing, talking with experts
  2. Capture: documenting the K you’ve generated
    1. achieved thru externalization (making tacit K explicit: writing stuff down)
    2. and internalization (converting [I don’t like that word] explicit to tacit… or better yet, transfering explicit K from documents to brains… known once upon a time as reading)
    3. remember: this can also reach outside the org (industrial espionage is definitely capture!)
  3. Sharing: employers share among themselves
    1. achieved thru socialization (tacit)
    2. and exchange (explicit; doable in units)
    3. this is full tilt transfer, not just utilization of K by someone else who doesn’t really get what’s going on; K moves, not just recommendations based on K
    4. sharing allows more general application of K to different situations
  4. Application: do something with it! (“leverage it”)
    1. achieved through direction (rule of man! boss/expert tells you to do something! usu tacit, but not as exclusive a category as the above three)
    2. and routines (rule of law! procedures, rules, norms, etc.; employees implement best practices; develop policies enshrining good practices; usu explicit, but see above)
    3. not necessarily a transfer of K: folks taking direction and following policy may not know why the actions prescribed are good ideas; they’re just doing what they are told

Remember, these processes are at the top of the pyramid (I should learn to make drawing faster in WordPress)

KM Mechanisms: learning by doing, on-the-job training, learning by observation, face-to-face meetings

[whoops! couple slides shot by!]

KMS can be designed to support each of the above processes (and their subprocesses!)

KMS: not just software! KM is all about policies and culture! KM is about winning hearts and minds and getting people to talk (and write), not just installing a wiki.

assignment to be posted on D2L

New semester! New textbook! Let’s read!

Irma Becerra-Fernandez, Avelino Gonzalez, and Rajiv Sabherwal, Knowledge Management: Challenges, Solutions, and Technologies, Uppe Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004.

Chapter 1 is just the intro, 11 thin pages. Noteworthy points:

  • [2] Peter Drucker is considered the father of knowledge management (KM). The authors cite an important paper of his from 1994. We can perhaps trace KM’s beginnings as a discipline to the 1970s. This is new stuff.
  • [2] “…knowledge-intensive companies around the world are valued at three to eight times their financial capital.” Your brains are worth more than your buildings.
  • [3] KM’s “traditional” (funny word for a young field) emphasis: codified knowledge (“recognized and already articulated”); focus turning to include tacit knowledge (found only in minds of certain experts)
  • [3] the comments about intellectual capital and structural capital get me wondering: Structural capital is “everything that remains when the employees go home.” Intellectual capital is what employees take with them… but do we let them take it with them? Does referring to my thoughts as “capital” suggest that my thoughts can be viewed as property that the organization might claim from me?
  • [4] Companies need employees with good communication skills because communication is how we make knowledge flow!
  • [5] 1990s reëngineering hit companies hard: they lost knowledge (also “decreased morale, reduced commitment, inferior quality, lack of teamwork, lower productivity, and loss of innovative ability”). We get excited about KM “to minimize the impact of downsizing”—uh oh. We help capture vital knowledge so the company can “maintain its competitive edge” even after it cans you. The better your KM, the less secure your job.
  • [8] But in happier news, “an old adage” says KM is 20% tech and 80% people and org. culture.

On intellectual capital and “capturing” knowledge: Our job in KM seems to be to keep employees from taking intellectual capital home with them. I suppose it’s no worse than saying to a GM worker, “Sure, Bob, you built that truck, but you don’t get to drive it home.” The company needs labor to build all these ideas. The company compensates me for building those ideas. The company keeps those ideas.

What’s more personal: the brain power I put into creating an idea, or the sweat I put inot creating a thing?