Knowledge management facilitates continuous learning and unlearning


By Muhammad Junaid Younas Ghori
July 05 - 11, 2004





Mayo defines Knowledge Management as the "Management of the information, knowledge and experience available to an organization", its creation capture storage availability & utilization in order that organizational activities build on what is known and extend it further. Knowledge management is the process of collecting, storing and using the knowledge held within an organization.

The process by which organization develops its store of knowledge is called organizational learning. A learning organization is centered on people that make up the organization and knowledge they hold.

There are two dimensions of knowledge one that can be easily stated and stored in management information systems such as the facts, transactions, events that can be incorporated in the organizational tangible memory is explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the formal documented knowledge held in the organization's resource base that can easily be retrieved, shared & disseminated.

Charles West Churchman describes that "Knowledge resides in the user and not in the collection of information." The other more intangible form of knowledge is the tacit knowledge which is the expertise held in the people within the organization that has not been formally documented, it is the knowledge that exists in the individual's brain and whether he chooses to share this knowledge is a matter of choice.

It is observed that the motivation to share hard won experience is some times low, the individual is giving away his value and may be very reluctant to lose a position of influence and respect by making it available to every one.

Knowledge has often used in organizations to gain advantage in terms of influence and self-advancement by those who have it over those who do not. Change in culture and individual behavior must aim towards encouraging the use of knowledge not for individual advantage but for the benefit of the organization as a whole. The aim is to create a knowledge sharing environment. This requires a change in organizational structures, values, leadership behavior, and various human resource management practices.

Changing the people's behavior was seen as the biggest difficulty in managing knowledge and biggest impediment to its translation was culture. A shared culture, vision, values & rewards for knowledge sharing are the only way out. Senior executives must demonstrate commitment and motivate knowledge sharing behavior through their own actions.

American Management Association says "Knowledge is vital to a company's future success".

Knowledge management is necessary for organizations because what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Considering a simplistic example banks in Pakistan that were selling only commercial credit products to businesses become obsolete in their approach regardless of the efficiency of their processes since their product definition did not keep up with the changing needs of market which demands a variety of consumer credit and Islamic financing products providing flexibility and ease of availability. To remain aligned with changing business needs, organizations need continuous assessment of their business effectiveness so that core competencies do not become core rigidities.

Knowledge management facilitates continuous learning and unlearning. John Hunt in "Managing People at Work" says learning involves learning and unlearning, not merely learning some thing new but also trying to unlearn what is already known.



Lewin described this learning process in his three stage change process.


Unfreeze is selling the change that is unfreezing the existing attitudes, values, behavior, systems and structures as a result of new knowledge initiatives in the organization. Change is concerned with identifying the new desirable behavior and refreeze is the final stage implying the consolidation or reinforcement of new behavior.

Knowledge management considers the synergy between technological and behavioral issues as necessary for survival in the environment which is subject to only one constant that is change. Knowledge value chain treats human as key component who is engaged in the continuous assessment of knowledge held within and outside the organization. Humans engage in an active process of sense making to continuously assess the effectiveness of best practices.

Knowledge management focuses on "doing the right things" instead of "doing things right". Knowledge management is the frame work within which the organization views all its processes as knowledge processes. In this view all business processes involve creation, dissemination renewal and application of knowledge towards organization sustenance and survival lest the best practices of yesterday turn out to be the worst practices of today and tomorrow.

The writer is Assistant Vice President, Training & Development, Saudi Pak Commercial Bank Lahore.