Knowledge Management Systems

“What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

–  Nicholas CarrThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

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Initially, as I read this quote, I thought “Ah yes, another victim of information overload in the 21st century”. But as I looked deeper into its meaning, and reflected upon myself, I realised just how relevant it is to just about anyone.

This quote perfectly sums up just how rapidly information is thrown in our direction, and due to this, our minds are struggling to absorb it all. Once, humans had to go and seek out information when they needed or wanted it, perhaps from books, or learning from listening to others speak. Now we are constantly bombarded with information, from every direction, whether we want the information or not.

Acquiring information used to be like turning on a tap for water. When you wanted water, you turned on the tap, got what you needed, and then turned it off again. Now, acquiring information is like someone holding up a fireman’s hose and forcefully spraying it in your face 24 hours a day, whether you asked for it or not.

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Humankind used to be able to take pieces of information and ponder them, really try to understand what they meant, and why they were important, and then compartmentalize them away for when they may need that piece of information again in the future. Now, as Carr describes, we never seem to have the time to contemplate information. It seems as soon as we receive one piece of information, before we even have the time to process what it means, another load of information is presented.

This is extremely common in businesses today. As newer technologies become introduced, businesses have the capacity of receiving in much larger volumes of information. Clearly, the employees of a business are physically unable to store all this information in their heads, which is why it is absolutely essential that companies implement knowledge management systems.

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Knowledge management systems have been defined by scholars in various ways. However, at their core, Thierauf (1999, pg 16) describes them as a system that is created and designed to capture and store knowledge in order to manage and effectively further a company for the future. This knowledge can then be applied by using them from an individual level right up to an organisation wide level.

A very commonly asked question is what is the difference between an information system, and a knowledge management system? The difference here is important as information systems are based purely on what kinds of information an organisation has, how that can be stored, and what IT resources a company can use to manage it. Information systems need people, but people are not a critical aspect to it.

Conversely, people, and how they are managed, are critical within knowledge management systems. The primary goal of knowledge management systems is to use both explicit and tacit knowledge, that often employees can provide, and learn how to harness it in order to improve the organisation as a whole. The two systems are similar in some respects, but knowledge management systems require a much more personal level of management. Knowledge management systems are unique to every business, as the employees of each company bring unique knowledge with them, which can improve the overall learning capabilities of the business as well.

Knowledge management is, and should always be, an essential part of any business. Therefore, the role of knowledge management systems is important for companies to implement and understand. It would make the lives of anyone working in a company extremely difficult to have significant amounts of knowledge, and be trying to manage it with no real system in place to aid them. Therefore, knowledge management systems should be implemented for firms to capture, store, track, and save knowledge that comes through their company. This is an essential step for businesses as this also encompasses retaining both the explicit and tacit knowledge of employees once they leave the company. This means that unique knowledge does not get lost once employees leave and are replaced.

Overall, companies, regardless of size, should include knowledge management systems into their current business plans if they do not already exist within the firm. They are essential for ensuring the retention of important and unique knowledge within a business, and also to aid in achieving competitive advantage. As Nicholas Carr explained, information is something that comes at us so rapidly, but is essential for progression. This is why implementing knowledge management systems into companies is so important.


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