Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.
An established discipline since 1991 (see Nonaka 1991), KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, and library and information sciences (Alavi & Leidner 1999). More recently, other fields have started contributing to KM research; these include information and media, computer science, public health, and public policy.
Many large companies and non-profit organizations have resources dedicated to internal KM efforts, often as a part of their business strategy, information technology, or human resource management departments (Addicott, McGivern & Ferlie 2006). Several consulting companies also exist that provide strategy and advice regarding KM to these organizations.
Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization. KM efforts overlap with organizational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. It is seen as an enabler of organisational learning and a more concrete mechanism than the previous abstract research.
KM efforts have a long history, to include on-the-job discussions, formal apprenticeship, discussion forums, corporate libraries, professional training and mentoring programs. More recently, with increased use of computers in the second half of the 20th century, specific adaptations of technologies such as knowledge bases, expert systems, knowledge repositories, group decision support systems, intranets, and computer-supported cooperative work have been introduced to further enhance such efforts.
In 1999, the term personal knowledge management was introduced which refers to the management of knowledge at the individual level (Wright 2005).
In terms of the enterprise, early collections of case studies recognized the importance of knowledge management dimensions of strategy, process, and measurement (Morey, Maybury & Thuraisingham 2002). Key lessons learned included: people and the cultural norms which influence their behaviors are the most critical resources for successful knowledge creation, dissemination, and application; cognitive, social, and organizational learning processes are essential to the success of a knowledge management strategy; and measurement, benchmarking, and incentives are essential to accelerate the learning process and to drive cultural change. In short, knowledge management programs can yield impressive benefits to individuals and organizations if they are purposeful, concrete, and action-oriented.
More recently with the advent of the Web 2.0, the concept of Knowledge Management has evolved towards a vision more based on people participation and emergence. This line of evolution is termed Enterprise 2.0 (McAfee 2006). However, there is an ongoing debate and discussions (Lakhani & McAfee 2007) as to whether Enterprise 2.0 is just a fad that does not bring anything new or useful or whether it is, indeed, the future of knowledge management (Davenport 2008).