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Knowledge Management - Cycle

It is vital to understand the following elements of the KM Cycle and their respective importance because by doing so, one finds points of reference that can be more easily identified and adjusted if they are not implemented correctly or are not being followed in the first place. Upon discovery, a particular element can be reinstated or altered in an effort to ensure completion of KM Cycle.

Knowledge Creation and/or Capture

Knowledge creation and capture is the process of “gain” or acquirement. This “gain” occurs by either the creation or capture of said knowledge. It is understood that this step is the particular awareness, understanding or an acquaintance of facts, knowledge, and skills brought into existence or acquired via experience, education or some other kind of exposure.

This happens in many different ways. In a professional environment, this could occur by watching and listening to a trainer, or by reading through the policy and Standard Operating Procedure Manuals. It could also be that one sees a flaw in a certain system, and based on past experience or through pure innovation, figures out a way to improve upon it to save time or money.

Dalkir brings an excellent point in that knowledge is also created in social settings. Through interactions, a group memory or knowledge base is created and sometimes changed (2011). This is important to note because knowledge itself is not limited to a professional setting. This also means that the KM cycle is not limited to a professional setting either.

It should be noted that the process of capture and creation are very different ideas. Creation is to bring into existence. The Theory of Relativity would be a great example of “Creation” because such ideas were not present prior to the discovery. Capture on the other hand, is the process of taking possession. This infers that the knowledge is already out there, but that one has taken possession of that knowledge. This could be done mentally, physically, experientially or even technologically.

Regardless of whether this knowledge is either created or captured, the point is that knowledge must be acquired as this is both the start and the end of the cycle.

Knowledge Codification

Knowledge codification is the process of making it code or organizing it to where it can be more easily accessed. In other words, it is the comprehensive recording of acquired knowledge. A great example of this would be in the idea of data entry. This could include any number of things but not limited to names in an Excel document; inventory numbers that can be cross referenced against previous years; or even entries into a discussion board.

This idea does not end with technology though. Many today are quick to forget about older organizational tools such as the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) System. One could also stretch to say that the earliest form of codification was that of prehistoric man when they began to draw on the walls to record what they were seeing. The point is that if there is knowledge to be had, then there is knowledge to be codified in any numbers of ways.

Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination

Knowledge Dissemination and Sharing is a rather simple idea. This part of the process is basically taking the knowledge and making it available and/or providing it to another. However, while the term is simple, that does not mean the process or practice thereof is simple. Actually, it could be said that the term is simple, yet the practice is complex.

Basically, knowledge sharing and dissemination is the process of distribution in regard to that knowledge. The manner in which this is approached can change everything, and the practice itself relies upon so many different factors that it can be hard to measure effectively. Examples of these factors may include arbitrary ideas such as trust or respect, or technological ones that include email or SharePoint. While any of the factors presented are great tools for dissemination, they are not exactly aspects that an organization should rely on in regard to the overall process.

Furthermore, knowledge distribution can become a challenge in the face of adversity or breakdown. The consequences can range from annoyance to catastrophic. An example of knowledge distribution going wrong could be the military response to the advancing Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Washington recognized the threat, sent the warning, but the distribution of the knowledge was not shared effectively, hence the death of quite a few Americans. This brings the discussion to Knowledge Acquisition and Application.

Knowledge Acquisition and Application

Knowledge acquisition and application is more about putting the knowledge to good use after it has been received. It should also be recognized that knowledge is only as good as the person who uses it. Including Mother Nature in the discussion seems appropriate for this demonstration.

If the National Weather Service issues a Severe Hurricane Warning stating that the anticipated storm is much larger than previous storms, and that people need to evacuate the coastal areas, some will undoubtedly not evacuate, regardless of the warning. In this scenario, the knowledge was created, captured, codified, and disseminated in a highly effective manner. Yet, when the knowledge was acquired by the end user, the correct or desired application of that knowledge was missed. Perhaps the importance of or actual danger posed was not understood. Perhaps it was based out of stubbornness of the person receiving the information due to past success rates in regard to hurricanes in that area. Regardless, because of this potential misunderstanding or miscalculation, the chances of a bad outcome are substantially greater for this person.

Knowledge Acquisition and Application is a vital aspect in the KM Cycle because it is the action aspect of the cycle, it is the end result, the effect to the original cause. It is how the cycle comes full turn. However, in order to have the desired result, the dissemination, codification, and creation must be clear, meaning that each step of the cycle deserves its own deliberate and direct attention.

Perspectives and Considerations

Being a cycle, it should be understood that each part is crucial to the overall success of the system. It should also be noted that in order to achieve the desired result with any system, each piece or step must be achieved with a high degree of success; IE creation must be sound, codification must be sound, dissemination must be effective, and the acquisition and application must be effective as well. The KM Cycle is no exception. The following represents supporting concepts from multiple expert sources, which overlap and reinforce the perspectives provided in regard to the elements discussed.

According to Castro, & Sánchez (2013), “Organizational Knowledge Management Creation and Transfer is the process of making available, amplifying, and connecting the knowledge created by and within and between organizations”. This too could be considered a KM Cycle in that the steps are still being followed; creation/capture, codification and amplification, dissemination, and acquisition by those within the organization and the other organizations the knowledge is being shared with. Creation of course being step one in the cycle, but is fundamental before reaching any other step.

In the International Journal Of Advanced Manufacturing Technology (2013), the authors state clearly that “Organizational learning and knowledge management directly influenced organizational innovation; whereas organizational learning and organizational innovation directly influenced organizational performance among manufacturing firms.” This clearly demonstrates the need to codify the knowledge created because of the influence it has on the other aspects within the cycle. In other words, the application and or dissemination of the knowledge within the firms were hindered if the organization of such knowledge was not already established.

Wei-Li reiterates the importance of effective dissemination in regard to the overall process stating that “researchers have confirmed that effective knowledge sharing can enhance organizational absorptive capacity, productivity, performance, competitive advantage, and so on” (2013). Essentially, Wei-Li is recognizing that effective internal dissemination of knowledge aids in the ability of the organization to capture and codify said knowledge, making the organization more competitive overall.

Guzman and Trivelato (2011) reiterate that “knowledge decodification involves interpretation and application that, in turn, implies an understanding of the meaning of the codes used by the sender and thus, how to interpret these codes”. Essentially what is being said here is that the application of the knowledge being received can only as good as the information created. Bad information equals bad results. This is a reminder to the creator or capturer of knowledge, to codify that knowledge in such as way that the end user who engages in the acquisition and application process, will be able to do so effectively based on what was provided. Once again, in order to ensure a positive result, the steps prior must be sound.

KM Cycle Elements

There is much that a leader must do in an effort to maximize the value of each of the KM Cycle elements. These would include, but are not limited to things such as educating those who would handle the knowledge on their particular role in regard to the knowledge stream, but perhaps also on how their role and the knowledge they are handling impacts the entire process.

It would also be wise to engage participation and ownership in the process for those who are handling the different aspects. This plays well into the idea that a leader must illustrate or demonstrate a full understanding in regard to the capacity of what that particular piece of that cycle entails. This would help to build confidence in the overall process in the minds of those expected to initiate or follow it.

Then of course there is the process itself. A leader must not only hold the process together, but also needs to maintain the integrity of that process so that those who are contributing to or relying upon the cycle can remain confident in it.

Why is a Cycle?

It can be said that the four elements and their variants form a cycle because in order to achieve maximum benefit from the KM Models, one must follow the series of events or steps and repeat them in the same order as provided, if they truly seek a solid result.

It boils down to cause and effect really. For instance, one cannot distribute knowledge they do not have. One cannot apply knowledge that has yet to be distributed. Finally, one cannot codify knowledge that has yet to be collected or even created.

It is defined as a cycle because the process always repeats itself and it usually only goes in one direction. True, aspects can be refined, revisited, revamped, etc. but essentially the one who partakes in such actions is basically starting the cycle all over.

This in of itself is an important illustration of the KM process. Regardless of what analogy you provide, the system appears to be the same. This makes it easier to capture knowledge, organize the thought process, share it in order for someone else to acquire it. Much like this paper. The knowledge has been captured, organized based on the knowledge provided, and is it currently being disseminated in such a way that will be acquired by the end user.

Value in the KM Cycle

I find the KM Cycle brings a lot of value to Knowledge Based Leadership. Basically anything cyclical brings an enormous amount of value to the table. Being cyclical means it is generally reliable if the elements are intact. If certain elements are not intact, then the cycle will break down. However, if a system is truly cyclical and a breakdown occurs, the ability to pinpoint a problem increases, generating a greater possibility for a problem to be addressed and corrected.

As demonstrated, it is easy to see the importance in understanding the elements of the KM Cycle, because by doing so, one can more easily and effectively apply the cycle to their own profession. In addition, one can also more easily identify and correct issues within the cycle if it were not implemented correctly or was not being followed in the first place. Collectively, this will increase the overall effectiveness of its purpose.


Resources

Martín-de-Castro, G., & Montoro-Sánchez, Á. (2013). Exploring Knowledge Creation and Transfer in the Firm: Context and Leadership. Universia Business Review, (40), 126-137.
Noruzy, A., Dalfard, V., Azhdari, B., Nazari-Shirkouhi, S., & Rezazadeh, A. (2013). Relations between transformational leadership, organizational learning, knowledge management, organizational innovation, and organizational performance: an empirical investigation of manufacturing firms. International Journal Of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 64(5-8), 1073-1085. doi:10.1007/s00170-012-4038-y
WEI-LI, W. (2013). TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE OR NOT: DEPENDENCE ON KNOWLEDGE-SHARING SATISFACTION. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 41(1), 47-58. doi:10.2224/sbp.2013.41.1.47
Guzman, G., & Trivelato, L. (2011). Packaging and unpackaging knowledge in mass higher education-a knowledge management perspective. Higher Education, 62(4), 451-465. doi:10.1007/s10734-010-9398-3
Dalkir, K. (2011). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

David Robertson

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