5.2 Knowledge Processes: A Literature Review

5.2 Knowledge Processes: A Literature Review

          In literature various models of knowledge management processes are discussed.  For example, Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) knowledge processes are based on a basic framework that contains two dimensions: ontological and epistemological. The ontological dimension relates to the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge whereas the epistemological dimension views individuals as the key source of knowledge creation. These two dimensions constitute the four key processes:

  • Socialization: the process of transferring tacit knowledge from one person to tacit knowledge in another person.
  • Externalization:  the process of making tacit knowledge explicit among individuals within a group.
  • Combination: the process of knowledge transferring once converted in explicit form.
  • Internalization: the process of understanding and absorbing explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge held by the individual.

          Some other authors see Knowledge Management from a more static perspective, defining different stages that are due to cover for the development of the knowledge but without raising an iterative cycle. For example, Tannembaum and Alliger (2000) do not define the different stages of an organizational knowledge creation process, but assert that there are four major processes that collectively determine KM effectiveness. These processes are:

  • Knowledge Sharing: the extent to which people share their knowledge.
  • Knowledge Accessibility: the extent to which people have access to the information they need to make decisions, solve problems, perform job tasks and service customers.
  • Knowledge Assimilation: the extent to which people learn or assimilate the knowledge they need to perform well;
  • Knowledge Application: the extent to which people apply or use knowledge to effectively make decisions, solve problems and service customers.

          This variation of thought is very natural.       In the last few years knowledge management research and practice have grown at a dramatic pace. Yet, KM literature is fragmented and provides a variety of explanations for KM processes. Rastogi (2000) affirms that for meeting the KM requirements, organizations must plan and implement following process:

  • Identification of the knowledge required for a competitively effective implementation of enterprise strategy.
  • Mapping the existing and available knowledge including expertise and skills.
  • Capturing the existing knowledge through its formalized representation.
  • Acquiring needed knowledge and information including know-how.
  • Storing the existing, acquired, and created knowledge in properly indexed and interlinked knowledge repositories.
  • Sharing knowledge through its automatic access and distribution to users on the basis of their needs and interests.
  • Applying in support of decisions, actions, problems-solving, providing job aids and training.
  • Creating, generating or discovering new knowledge through research & development, experimentation, lessons learned, creative thinking and innovation.

          This last process is considered by Rastogi (2000) as the most advanced process which builds a solid foundation for competitive advantages. In contrast to a static hierarchical structure of knowledge process, Probst (2002) sees Knowledge Management as a dynamic cycle that is in permanent evolution. He has proposed eight knowledge processes that form two cycles, one inner cycle and other outer cycle. The inner cycle is composed of:

  • Identification is the process where external knowledge for analyzing and describing the organization’s knowledge environment is identified.
  • Acquisition refers to what forms of expertise should the organization acquire from outside through relationship with customers, suppliers, competitors and partners in co-operative ventures.
  • Development is a building block which complements Knowledge Acquisition. Its focus is on generating new skills, new products, better ideas and more efficient processes. Knowledge development includes all management efforts consciously aimed at producing capabilities.
  • Distribution is the process of sharing and spreading knowledge which is already present within the organization.
  • Utilization consists of carrying out activities to make sure that the knowledge available in the organization is applied productively for the benefit its.
  • Preservation this process takes place where the selective retention of information, documents and experienced required by management.

          There are two other processes in the outer cycle:

  • Knowledge Goals determine which capabilities should be built on which level.
  • Knowledge Assessment completes the cycle, providing the essential data for strategic control of Knowledge Management.

          Heisig, Mertins and Vorbeck (2001) also believes KM is a dynamic process, their model advocates for four processes which have similarities with the components of the inner cycle of Probst’s model. Their model includes:

  • Create - refers to the ability to learn and communicate existing knowledge and experience. It is considered of critical importance to share information, to create connections between ideas, and to build cross-connections with other topics.
  • Store - it requires a structured storage capability, which reflects in a quick search for information, access to information for other employees, and the effective sharing of knowledge as it is easily stored for everyone’s use.
  • Distribute - this process concedes importance to the development of a team spirit that supports the sharing of knowledge, as colleagues feel connected to each other because they follow common goals and they are dependent on each other in their activities.
  • Apply - this process starts from the idea that it is possible to create yet more knowledge with the concrete application of new knowledge. This element closes the circle of the core process of unified knowledge management.

          McElroy (2002), working with other members of Knowledge Management Consortium International, defines a Knowledge Management framework called “The knowledge life cycle”. This model assumes that knowledge exits only after it has been created, after this it can be captured, codified and shared. Consequently, the McElroy’s model divides the knowledge management process in two key processes:

  • Knowledge Production is the process in which new organizational knowledge is created. This is formed by Individual Group Learning, Knowledge Claim, Information Acquisition, Codified Knowledge Claim, and Knowledge Claim Evaluation. This process is synonymous with “organizational learning”.
  • Knowledge Integration is formed by some activities that allow knowledge sharing and distribution. It includes knowledge Broad-casting, Searching, Teaching, Sharing and other social activities that communicate.

          The McElroy’s model, introduces two new concepts, Supply Side and Demand Side.

  • Supply-side is the Knowledge Management practices designed to enhance the supply of existing knowledge to or from workers in an organization.
  • Demand-side focuses on the supply of existing knowledge to a workforce. It seeks to enhance their capacity to produce. The mission of demand-side Knowledge Management, then, is to enhance an organization’s capacity to satisfy its demand for new knowledge.

          The important assumption is that the impact on an organization’s capacity to produce and integrate knowledge by developing a range of interventions aimed at supporting, strengthening, and reinforcing employees’ knowledge related patterns of behaviour.

          Arthur Anderson and APQC (1996) proposed a set of KM processes consist of:  applying, sharing, creating, identifying, collecting, adapting, and organizing. Demarest (1997) divides knowledge management processes into construction, embodiment, dissemination, and use. Arthur D Little (1998) proposed knowledge management processes which are acquisition and creation, saving, disseminating, and use. Delphi (1998) proposes four key knowledge management processes: capturing, sharing, leveraging and feeding.  Wijnhoven (1998) categorizes KM processes into acquisition, retention, search, maintenance, dissemination. Pan and Scarbrough (1998) propose five processes which are: knowledge generation, processing, storage, dissemination, and use/reuse. Lee and Kim (2001) suggest three knowledge management processes; accumulation, integration, and reconfiguration.  Alan Frost (2010) has proposed six knowledge processes Knowledge          Discovery & Detection, Knowledge Organization & Assessment, Knowledge Sharing, Knowledge Reuse, Knowledge Creation, and Knowledge Acquisition. Some other studies which discuss the topic of knowledge management processes include Kucza (2001), Alavi & Leidner (2001), Bhatt (2001), Lee and Choi (2003), McInerney & Koenig (2011).

          In above paragraphs we have mentioned various approaches adopted by different authors regarding knowledge processes. Although, the community has different views about knowledge processes, yet it is very obvious that knowledge processes form the backbone of knowledge management. Hence, in the forthcoming sections we are going to discuss following key knowledge processes which are considered important for effective knowledge management:

  • Knowledge Discovery and Detection
  • Knowledge Capture and Codification
  • Knowledge Organization & Assessment
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Knowledge Acquisition
  • Knowledge verification
  • Knowledge utilization
  • Knowledge Creation
  • Knowledge Reuse