What Do We Call Them?
Sara Douglas has been given a daunting challenge. She is in charge of research management at a company providing outsourcing services for magazine publishers (primarily working with free-lance editors and writers).
The company is successful and continues to grow, but Sara finds herself almost overwhelmed with keeping up with the changes in handling information, knowledge, and strategic learning for the staff. It’s a classic knowledge services scenario, and it isn’t limited to just dealing with records and information management issues (RIM) or corporate archives or HR compliance documents. It’s the whole strategic knowledge picture, and Sara knows she needs to be dealing with strategic knowledge management at its highest level. She needs to combine KM, knowledge sharing, and knowledge services implementation into building a knowledge culture for the entire company.
And she’s stuck. Sara has some language issues. She’s OK with information management/ICT management, and she’s fine with strategic learning, simply because she’s identified strategic knowledge as what she’s dealing with. It’s the KM that’s keeping her up at night, and based on her own research and observations, she’s not alone.
Apparently there is a continuing struggle in conveying the concept of KM/knowledge services to people who are not particularly focused on knowledge and the value of knowledge in organizational effectiveness. Especially for executives with management responsibility who deal with research (people like Sara Douglas), there is a problem with how to describe all the strategic knowledge that KM/knowledge services is supposed to deal with.
Describing bits and pieces of the strategic knowledge realm is pretty easy, but what terms do you use when you want to be inclusive, when you want to describe all the strategic knowledge that the organization must deal with? Here are some steps to get us thinking, but how do we pull it all together?
Electronic Strategic Knowledge. The “naming” problem doesn’t seem to affect what we call repositories for electronic information and knowledge capture. There are all sorts of definitions, most of them coming down to something along the lines of a computerized system that systematically captures, organizes and categorizes an organization’s strategic knowledge, a repository that can be searched to ensure quick retrieval of the data.
Fine and dandy. But printed materials and other objects/artifacts can also “contain” knowledge to be accessed and shared, as do collaborative groups.
So what do we call these?
Here’s what some of us have come up with:
Materials Knowledge Repository (printed materials and other objects/artifacts). We’ve lived with these for a long time, and we have no problem speaking about the hard-copy materials we collect. Some companies might refer to these materials as a “library,” or even have them captured in a functional unit referred to as a “specialized library” or “research library.” On the other hand, when that functional unit expands to include electronic strategic knowledge capture and advisory, synthesis, and interpretive services, it becomes more of an “information center” or “knowledge center” or “knowledge services center,” terms we hear pretty often.
And, yes, this category does include more than hard-copy books, periodicals, and the like. In today’s KM/knowledge services environment, no one is surprised to hear people refer to objects or artifacts like photographs, videos, artworks, historical objects and the like for their “content,” the knowledge that one takes from observing or using them.
And then we come to the strategic knowledge – most often tacit knowledge, of course – captured and shared within networking or working groups and usually brought to the group in a knowledge transaction between or among people. Can we get away with referring to them as:
Collaborative Knowledge Repository (communities of practice, working groups, social media networks, etc.). We know that is an incredible amount of information, knowledge, and strategic learning content captured by, shared, used by, and sometimes even retained by individuals working in such groups (perhaps we should refer to this knowledge store as a Personal Knowledge Repository. Indeed, whole new industries seem to have popped up in the KM/knowledge services field, just to help us figure out how to deal with, coordinate, manage, and make available for sharing knowledge that is not captured in any formal sort of repository. We know there is a huge quantity of knowledge people use all the time, carrying it around with them and pulling it up when it’s needed. But they don’t think about it in terms of knowledge or knowledge value. And when we are successful in collecting this knowledge, getting it to the point that we can engage in network value analysis and determining how to collected tacit knowledge so it can be shared, what do we call it?
How are you referring to the entire knowledge base of your organization or company? Do you have a single phrase or term that you use? Is it used enterprise-wide?