An organizational knowledge-sharing framework

There is a lot of knowledge in an organization, some of it easy to codify (capture), and much (most) of it difficult to do so. Understanding how best to commit resources for knowledge-sharing should be in some kind of a decision-making framework that is easy for anyone to understand. This is a first attempt to do that.

[This post is a follow-up from my building institutional memory post].

Brian Gongol made an interesting observation on three categories of institutional memory. Decision memories are probably the most important, and likely the most open to rationalization in hindsight. The good decisions always seem obvious after the fact.

  • event memories, which are things like the construction of new facilities or the arrival of new employees

  • process memories, which note how things are done in order to save time and ensure their reliable repetition in the future

  • decision memories, which explain how the institution chose one path or policy or course of action over another

We can expand these three categories with Ewen La Borgne’s observation on the types of artifacts left by work projects. Outputs are quite explicit, while expertise is mostly implicit knowledge. Networks can be mapped, and are therefore explicit, but interpreting them requires implicit knowledge.

  • Information and outputs produced

  • Expertise (knowledge and know-how)

  • A network of connections

Put all of these together in order of difficulty in codifying memories/artifacts and the following graphic is my working interpretation. Explicit knowledge is easier to codify and more suitable for enterprise-wide initiatives, while implicit knowledge requires personal interpretation and engagement to make sense of it. Note that these six categories only serve as examples and are not a complete spectrum of knowledge representations.

codifying knowledge

So what types of knowledge management (KM) frameworks could help us support the codification of these knowledge artifacts? One way to look at it would be from a perspective discussed by Patti Anklam a few years back. Patti explained the differences between Big KM, Little KM and Personal KM and this distinction could be useful. Big KM is good for knowledge that can be easily codified, and Little KM can provide a structure for teams & groups to try out new things (in a Probe-Sense-Respond way). PKM puts individuals in control of their sense-making, but the organization can benefit from this by making it easier for workers to share knowledge.

structuring knowledge

Finally, there are certain types of tools and and platforms that would be more suitable for sharing of each type of knowledge artifact. I describe only a few in this image, but it gives an idea of how one could structure a full spectrum of knowledge-sharing in order to support institutional memory.

knowledge sharing

From here, one can now ask what types of platforms would help to codify and share the knowledge that is important to any organization. For larger organizations, all three types of KM are most likely necessary. Too often, Big KM is seen as sufficient, but in complex work environments, Little KM and Personal KM are also needed and should work in conjunction with Big KM. These are three important pieces, that should remain loosely joined in order for each to do what it does best.

8 Responses to “An organizational knowledge-sharing framework”

  1. sue waller

    I like the way you have set out the simple elements for which organisations feel that the issue is just too large so don’t do anything at all!

  2. Ara Ohanian

    Harold, another great post. You’ve identified and suggested solutions for an issue that is very real in industry today. Whether it’s oil and gas, dealing with a retirement exodus of greybeards, or engineering where an entire industry has identified the need for making the tacit explicit. Your approach here and your suggested solutions are valuable additions to a pressing problem. Thanks so much for the thinking.

  3. Alan Bellinger

    Excellent post and very insightful; just one thought, and that is where does curation fit into your figure? I wrestled with three possible answers:-
    1, It goes across each of the areas you list from content management to self publishing but as a separate box.
    2. It is part of collaboration tools
    3. It is a verb, not a noun, explaining the generic actions carrying out each of the content management to self publishing boxes.
    Can I be so bold as to ask your view?

  4. Harold

    Curation is a sense-making activity. It supports other methods to add value to knowledge, such as validation, synthesis, presentation, and customization. I see it as part of PKM.

  5. Jaap Pels

    Fun matrix.
    Please notice that the cost factor results in an arrow from right to left.
    Self publishing is cheap and CMSes are getting more and more costly (because of the operating costs / editorial cie’s, flagship “collaterals” etc).
    It also reminds me of The Knowledge Management Spectrum by D. Binney. Derek Binney / Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Falls Church, Virginia, USA (2003). He also presents a matrix knowledge type versus tool / application.
    From left to right I rather like the ‘IM – KS – PKM’ partition 🙂 As you wish I think KS is Big KM and IM the little brother. Big KM … mmmm a variation in Big data?
    Keep up making us read you, Jaap

  6. Jay Annadatha, D.Sc

    Having done my doctoral work on K sharing, I love this article for its comprehensive framework on KM. You make lot of sense in your explanation. However, I tend to disagree on your comment: “Too often, Big KM is seen as sufficient, but in complex work environments, Little KM and Personal KM are also needed and should work in conjunction with Big KM.”
    Not just in complex work environment, but in modern day knowledge driven economy where yesterday’s technology is archaic today, tools like SNA/ONA ( Social / Organizational Network Analysis) are so vital to team success which translates to organizational success.


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