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Knowledge management and sharing involve figuring out what a company knows, compiling and organizing that knowledge so it can be readily used, and ensuring the right knowledge gets to the right people at the right time to be of benefit to the company. It is a concept that has always been a part of doing business, but its evolution into a field of study is fairly new, as of 2012. Sound knowledge management and sharing can be of significant benefit to a company, while a failure to properly manage and share knowledge can be a significant detriment.
Knowledge is more than a mere collection of facts. According to knowledge management and sharing, a collection of facts or data points alone is meaningless; once they are put together into a coherent statement, they become knowledge. The idea of knowledge management is to know when a collection of data points to a body of information as knowledge.
Experts in the field of knowledge management and sharing say knowledge is the “how” of strategic planning. Analysts and managers who have information available to them can look at that information to identify patterns or trends. This knowledge about a company’s products, customers or industry can serve as a springboard for making decisions about how the company will proceed. For example, a real estate investment company that finds out foreclosures increased 10 percent in a target area in the previous 12 months can use this information to decide whether to continue to buy in the area.
While the idea of knowledge management and sharing may seem like an obvious concept, many executives are lax about the management of information that comes into their company. This lack of management sometimes means that information — or data points collected together into useful facts — gets lost in the shuffle of corporate governance. Perhaps a few upper-level executives see the results of a study showing that certain television ads turn off customers, but that information never filters down to the marketing department and, thus, does not benefit the company.
The concept of knowledge management and sharing is not limited to corporate production settings. Sharing information appropriately and effectively is crucial to a number of other settings, including healthcare networks and project-based work environments. In these cases, knowledge management and sharing involves determining, through clear and concise rules, how relevant issues pass through the project team and who has the final authority for making decisions based on that knowledge. A well-defined plan for knowledge helps to avoid any problems that arise from an ambiguous structure. In healthcare, knowledge management protocols help practitioners avoid any problems associated with distributing patient information.
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