Knowledge as an Asset

This is the information age. So we are deluged with information (and sometimes just data). Organizations are only now beginning to grasp the fundamental concept of Knowledge as an Asset.

What constitutes the knowledge asset?

“Unlike information, knowledge is less tangible and depends on human cognition and awareness. There are several types of knowledge – ‘knowing’ a fact is little different from ‘information’, but ‘knowing’ a skill, or ‘knowing’ that something might affect market conditions is something, that despite attempts of knowledge engineers to codify such knowledge, has an important human dimension. It is some combination of context sensing, personal memory and cognitive processes. Measuring the knowledge asset, therefore, means putting a value on people, both as individuals and more importantly on their collective capability, and other factors such as the embedded intelligence in an organisation’s computer systems.”  (http://www.skyrme.com/insights/11kasset.htm)

Tackling the concept of knowledge is challenging. Knowledge Engineering was first conceptualized in the early 1980s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_engineering) – coincident with the advent of the inexpensive personal computer. Since that time, the paradigm has shifted for all aspects of business. Seat-of-the-pants management is no longer suitable. And the requisite empowering of employees resulting from this transformation has completely changed the workplace.

Having said that, some of the most important issues in knowledge acquisition are as follows: (http://epistemics.co.uk/Notes/63-0-0.htm)

  • Most knowledge is in the heads of experts
  • Experts have vast amounts of knowledge
  • Experts have a lot of tacit knowledge
    • They don’t know all that they know and use
    • Tacit knowledge is hard (impossible) to describe
  • Experts are very busy and valuable people
  • Each expert doesn’t know everything
  • Knowledge has a “shelf life”

Moving knowledge within the organization is perhaps the most challenging aspect of corporate knowledge. Knowledge hand off must occur laterally and temporally. Laterally in that the knowledge must be shared in order to convey the necessary understanding that is required; When a critical mass of users gain the understanding, then the corporate wisdom will result. Temporally in that knowledge must be handed off to the shift change (this is true for 24/7 operations as well as global operations).

But the ability to use technology to share the results of technology is lagging. Frequently, the hand-off notes are the only tool at anyones disposal – very inefficient. Recently, Sharepoint sites and Wikis have become popular for inter-departmental information and knowledge sharing.

Jerome J. Peloquin wrote an interesting essay (“Knowledge as a Corporate Asset”) in which he opens with “Virtually every business in the world faces the same fundamental problem: Maintenance
of their competitive edge through the application and formation of knowledge.” He make two statements in his conclusion which serve well to wrap-up the premise of this essay (Knowledge as an Asset):

  • Information is useless unless we can act upon it, and that implies that it must first be transformed
    into knowledge.
  • The knowledge asset combines a number of factors which can be objectively proven by
    the observation and accomplishment of a specific set of criteria.

Enter Knowledge Information Management. Gene Bellinger writes that

“In an organizational context, data represents facts or values of results, and relations between data and other relations have the capacity to represent information. Patterns of relations of data and information and other patterns have the capacity to represent knowledge. For the representation to be of any utility it must be understood, and when understood the representation is information or knowledge to the one that understands. Yet, what is the real value of information and knowledge, and what does it mean to manage it?”

If Knowledge is an Asset, then, like any corporate asset, it must be managed, secured, maintained, and made available as a tool to the employees. If information is the core of business, then the resulting knowledge is the value of the business. And the wisdom (coming from the understanding) is the driving force and the profitability of the business. Smaller, faster, cheaper may be the mantra; knowledge is the asset.