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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Basic differences between managing information and managing knowledge? Is it necessary that we try to "get inside people's heads" to capture it?

Information and Knowledge are two interrelated concepts. Information is processed data that has the capacity to give form or shape to a matter or to the mind. Formation of matter can be appreciated in the way that “messages passed from Genes instruct the cell machinery to build an organism” (Campbell J., 1982). Shaping of mind happens when information reaches the receiver with a purpose and makes some sense to him. Shaping of mind leads to creation of Knowledge within the receiver that enables him to make intelligent decisions. Ever since Information Revolution, Information is accepted as the key organizational resource whereas it’s only recently that Knowledge has been given a similar status. Eventhough both Information and Knowledge gives strategic advantage to the organization, their management process differs greatly.

Basic Goal:
Information Management involves managing the collection, storage, processing and analysis of organizational information in such a way that it leads to efficient decision making. Here, the importance is on what shapes the decision making. Focus is on how IT can be effectively utilized so that the business uses the latest IM tools and systems that bring in competitive advantage and adaptability.

Knowledge Management on the other hand focuses on gathering together of all the specialist knowledge that the organization has accumulated throughout its history and coordinating the knowledge integration process towards a self building knowledge framework. Here, the focus is on how an organization can effectively utilize and reuse the knowledge that has already aided in decision making on a previous assignment. Strategic advantage is realized by building up of codified expert knowledge in specialized areas such as production, sales, services etc.

Efficiency Considerations:
Efficiency in Information Management is realized when the Information processing framework is able to deliver the right information at the right place at the right time in the right form and at the right cost. Focus is on selecting cost effective IT that would help realizing the ROI within the budgeted limits.
Efficiency in Knowledge Management is realized when there is effective integration of expert knowledge by minimizing knowledge transfer through cross-learning across the functions (Grant R.M. 1996). This means, when a programmer wants to know about the standard SSL based encryption technology used by the company, he can just log in to the company Knowledge System and search for experts in that area and get the help online.

Knowledge Management systems are designed and implemented in organizations with the goal of making the expert knowledge freely available to everyone in the organization, irrespective of the hierarchy. When you want a specialized knowledge, you need not run looking around for people, its there in the Knowledge framework. Only effort required is to login to the system and search for it. So, there is no need to “get inside people’s head” to capture knowledge. But, yes you have to if you do not have a KM system in place.

1. Campbell J. (1982). Grammatical Man. Information, Entropy, Language and Life. Simon and Schuster, New York.

2. Grant R.M. (1996). Towards Knowledge Based Theory of Firm. Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 17

(c) Deepesh Joseph, 2006

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