Definitions of knowledge management abound and (unless you know differently) there is no one shared definition or agreement about what these two words mean when we put them together.
That said, those that attempt to describe or define knowledge management often do so using similar terms and by giving similar examples. Knowledge management practitioners and consultants also use and deploy similar tools and techniques, although will often brand these in a variety of ways e.g. Keep in Touch meetings; Lunch and Learns; Brown Bag sessions etc. So whilst there is no one shared definition for knowledge management it could be said that there are common descriptions and common tools and techniques being used.
The point about a lack of a definition or shared understanding was in part made by Victor Newman in his book The Knowledge Activist’s Handbook in which he said that “the problem with knowledge management is that it begins with two words: knowledge and management”. In the knowledge management foundation course I run I get delegates to think deeply about the two words ‘knowledge’ and ‘management’ and then think about what these mean when put together. This exercise highlights that knowledge management means different things to different people and their organisations – and that context (for what purpose) is all.
So if you and you organisation are about to embark on a knowledge management journey, a good place to start is to think about what these words mean and in the context of the business challenges and opportunities being faced. Or if you or your organisation has already embarked on a knowledge management journey and you have previously given thought as to what these two words mean, now might the time to ‘dust down’ your definition and check to what extent there is still a shared understanding amongst your colleagues.
Whilst it might be fun and of some value to compare and contrast definitions of knowledge management, the one that really counts is the one you have in your organisation, and it is against this that a shared understanding is required.
…and for those looking to compare or contrast definitions, the following comprises an eclectic list to get you thinking:
APQC : http://www.apqc.org/knowledge-management
Asian Development Bank : http://www.adb.org/site/knowledge-management/main
Deloitte : http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_LU/lu/services/consulting/knowledge-management/#.UXp40b5wbug
KM World : http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/What-Is-…/What-is-KM-Knowledge-Management-Explained-82405.aspx
Knowledge Management Online: http://www.knowledge-management-online.com/Definition-of-Knowledge-Management.html
NASA : http://km.nasa.gov/whatis/
NHS : http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/icd/informspec/careerplan/phi/personal/learningweb/technical/other/knowledge
Stephen Denning : http://www.stevedenning.com/Knowledge-Management/what-is-knowledge-management.aspx
Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_management
Or if you prefer to watch a video clip rather than read the words from a web site, then you’ll find a large number which provide answers the question what is knowledge management? on Youtube.