Knowledge management is an area that is receiving an increased amount of attention and is developing fast in this fast changing environment of the modern world. Knowledge refers to the knowledge, understanding and information held by the members of an organisation and can be used as an asset to an organisation. This knowledge, held by members, is ever changing, developing and re-inventing itself. The key to managing that knowledge is understanding;
- Who has that knowledge?
- How can it be shared?
- What can be done with the knowledge?
- What influence does that knowledge have on the culture and/or the organisation?
Knowledge can be the driving force of change and with that change comes re-invention and new knowledge, so it is an ever shifting thing. There are considered to be two types of knowledge; Tacit and Explicit. Tacit knowledge referring to routines, common sense etc… Where as Explicit knowledge refers to factual information. Tacit knowledge cannot be verbally explained but must be learnt through experience and ‘having a go’ therefore it can be very difficult to teach. This has some advantages for an organisation, it makes it easier to keep the knowledge within the organisation, however there is a disadvantage to this in that once there is no one left with the knowledge, the organisation or idea ceases to exist. This happens so often in traditional industries such as weaving, pottery or other artisan crafts.
So how this knowledge is shared becomes an important consideration if the organisation is to remain viable. Knowledge Networks present a framework within which we can structure and manage new knowledge. There is too much knowledge for one organisation to know so it makes good business sense to collaborate with another organisation who has the skills and knowledge that your own organisation does not have. This way, there is a greater transfer of labour, knowledge and skills and less crossing over and duplication of labour, skills and knowledge. The stronger the link between the organisations, the stronger the transfer of tacit knowledge becomes.
Knowledge networks enables an organisation be prepared for future change and often allows organisations to dictate future change by providing the opportunity to ‘play’ and ‘improvise’ to create new ideas and new knowledge. Similarly the dissemination of good practice through knowledge networks allows the creation of new good practice.
In the organisation I currently work in, we have a very similar system of knowledge transfer through teacher learning communities. Teacher Learning Communities bring together individuals rather than organisations, but works on the same principles as knowledge networks. Individuals come together under the banner of knowledge transfer to discuss best practice and examples of good teaching under a topic chosen by the organisation (i.e. marking, effective questioning etc…) and transfer knowledge to others for them to try.