On research and knowledge management

I am sometimes asked whether or not research is actually one of the multitude of activities under the umbrella of knowledge management. The researcher undertakes primary or secondary research (or both) and thus contributes to the information and knowledge base. The researcher can even use the information (that has been sourced, evaluated and organised) to compose a written or oral summary or analysis. In addition, the distribution and management of that content is also important. Of course, not all researchers will have these skills.

In my opinion, research does have a place under the knowledge management umbrella. Research is all about finding and organising relevant information. How that research is used and and converted into knowledge is important, as is the debate about the meaning of knowledge more generally.

Sometimes with all the hoopla and excitement about tacit knowledge and the people and networking activities (intellectual capital and social capital), it is easy to forget that explicit knowledge is also a critical component within the knowledge management service, including the development of further knowledge and so on. The “knowledge spiral” is a well known knowledge management concept these days, over a decade after Nonaka and Takeuchi’s book was first written in English, explaining how the combination and circulation of tacit and explicit knowledge leads to continued learning and innovation.

I really began my career in the information profession primarily as a researcher and communicator of information and knowledge. I have expanded my roles and responsibilities into the more obvious side of knowledge management over time, yet the research side is always there. It is clear that research has remained a strong part of my knowledge management practices to date.

What does this mean? It means that researchers, and librarians for that matter, are all contributing participants under the broad knowledge management umbrella. The umbrella is wide enough (and pretty handy with all the rain in Sydney at the moment) to accommodate such roles. Of particular importance is how these skills can be utilised to enhance the knowledge management performance of individuals and organisations.

Hmmm- now what about those records management people?


4 responses to “On research and knowledge management

  1. Good point, Brad. In some organisations, research can sometimes go to the extreme as claiming the title knowledge management… to the horror of some. Just as KM means many things to many people, I certainly agree that research can be housed within conceptual KM (and we could even go so far as to claim the good work resulting from research activities (which is then obviously shared as explicit knowledge) as being a measurable and tangible deliverable of KM…!). But when taken too far and when KM is seen AS research, it then makes the re-education of the organisation to see the other offerings of KM a tough and arduous task.

  2. Patrick,

    Yes, research is a part of the knowledge management mix. I think the critical dimension is how the research process and output is used within the knowledge management practice.


  3. I was trained as a “trad” information researcher – which meant that I was good at finding & manipulating public information & data.

    Where “trad” research has been weak and can gain from a link to KM is in the area of undocumented knowledge that exists in communities & social networks. This can be converted into information that can offer a real competitive edge.

    I found this all the time at IBM – the research desk did a sterling job combining external research services & internal databases but we found critical info by asking people in our networks.

  4. Matt,

    Exactly. To me, the researcher has strong links with explicit knowledge, and much of the KM focus these days is on tacit knowledge. I have found from personal experience that both skill sets complement each other very effectively in providing a knowledge management service AND/OR a research service.

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