What Are the Key Principles of Knowledge Management?

By Hilee Avrahami   |   February 1, 2021
knowledge management principles
Knowledge management’s original principle was simple: if an organization’s most valuable resource (other than its people) was knowledge, it should be leveraged for better productivity. While this principle still holds, knowledge management (KM) principles have grown in number as businesses realize it isn’t so easy to convert KM into business results. Today, leaders need more focused principles that help them process, manage, and measure their knowledge flows.

Components of Knowledge Management

Four components of knowledge management have a direct impact on its principles:

  • People, who build and use knowledge sharing in an organization.
  • Process, where knowledge is available as soon as someone needs it.
  • Content, which includes anything from project documentation to FAQs and manuals.
  • Strategy, which covers budgeting, tools, techniques, value proposition, and the ROI of KM.

Regardless of your industry or size, if you have these four components in place to support knowledge sharing, you are equipped to build and grow an agile and sustainable KM program.

Key Principles of Knowledge Management

Successful strategies for KM ensure people can create and expand common languages around their work. To get there requires understanding the knowledge you already have and what you continue to gather. As more organizations realize the real advantage lies in what they know, they’re adopting these key KM principles.

  • KM is an investment worth making. If they want to survive, no successful business continues to put out low quality or unpopular products and services. Not managing knowledge makes just as little sense. What, in other words, is the cost of not leveraging tacit knowledge? How is success impeded when employees or customers can’t avail themselves of modern technologies such as a knowledge management portal to access the information they need quickly? The resources invested in developing and managing intellectual capital may be steep, but the cost for not doing so is steeper.
  • People, process, technology. Effective KM requires a hybrid solution made up of people and technology. Even with AI and machine learning getting us closer to technologies that “think,” organizations still need a heavy dose of human input to successfully manage knowledge. A KM system is good at capturing, processing, and sharing highly-structured knowledge that changes rapidly. The knowledge, though, flows from people’s experience, expertise, and wisdom.
  • People must be motivated to share knowledge. “If my knowledge is so valuable, why should I share it?” When you think about it in terms of job security, it’s a reasonable, human question. Since it’s natural for people to want to hoard the knowledge that makes them succeed, organizations must find a way to motivate employees to share their knowledge and seek out the knowledge of others. This can be achieved through initiatives like fostering a positive work culture, tying knowledge sharing to performance reviews, revamping training and onboarding methods, and setting up a KM system that’s conducive to collaboration.

Countless other principles apply to KM. What works for any one organization likely differs from another. All principles, though, have four things in common. They’re timeless, constant, universal, and scalable. No matter which ones your organization adopts, they are the heart of how well you manage knowledge.

KM to Create Value

To be effective, a company’s KM strategy must reflect its competitive strategy, i.e. how it creates value for customers and how its people deliver on that value. It’s not surprising then that one of the biggest challenges for today’s organizations is turning KM principles into daily knowledge management in practice.

A cloud-based knowledge management system like KMS Lighthouse enables you to bring people, processes, and technology together to facilitate a culture where knowledge sharing is seen as crucial to realizing the organization’s goals.

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