Knowledge management and learning management systems. What do these terms mean, why are they important to your business and what should you know?
We put together a brief guide on knowledge management and its relevance in any workplace, as well as some information on how the idea of knowledge management can be implemented through the use of a learning management system.
What Is Knowledge Management (KM)?
First, before delving into the more specific elements of how a learning management system (LMS) plays a role, what is knowledge management?
Knowledge management is such an important term it even has its own abbreviation which is KM. Knowledge management refers to the creating, sharing, using and managing of knowledge and information in an organization. For our purposes, the organization is your business.
The Importance of Knowledge Management
When a business is using knowledge in the best possible ways, the idea is that they’re better able to achieve their strategic objectives. KM is multidisciplinary and relates to business administration and information systems. Larger companies have knowledge management initiatives as part of their business strategy, or the HR or IT department can handle it. There are also consulting companies that focus exclusively on knowledge management.
Some of the objectives within a business that are related to knowledge management include continuous organizational improvement, improved performance, innovation, and competitive advantage.
Knowledge Management Tools and Strategies
Some of the KM strategies and tools used by businesses include:
- Storytelling as a way to share knowledge
- Cross-project learning
- Having knowledge sharing be an essential part of employees’ job roles
- Implementing best practices for sharing knowledge
- Fostering a culture that’s built on encouraging the sharing of information
- Regular evaluation of competencies
- Master-apprentice relationships, or job-shadowing
- Knowledge repositories
- Measuring intellectual capital
- Collaborative software
Benefits of Knowledge Management
There are also specific reasons that businesses want to implement best knowledge management practices in their organization. Some of these reasons as outlined by KM theories include:
- Making knowledge available to facilitate more innovative product and service development
- Shorter development cycles
- Managing innovation and learning
- Maximizing the use of employee expertise
- Allowing employees to have easy access to relevant ideas that they need to do their job
- Solving problems
- Managing assets and intellectual capital
Certain technologies are related to knowledge management as well. These technologies can include:
- Collaborative software that allows for things like threaded conversations and sharing of documents
- Workflow systems
- Content management systems
- Scheduling and planning software
- Virtual communication software
And last, but certainly not least, eLearning or learning management systems are what pave the way for a strong foundation of knowledge management because they let businesses create customized training programs and education. A lot of the technologies above interact with one another.
There is a specifically defined model of KM which includes four components. Those components are socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization. Nonaka and Takeuchi developed this model, and it’s called the SECI Model for Knowledge Management.
Our next section is about how to take this model and use it along with your learning management system to strengthen your organization.
Learning Management Systems and the SECI Model
- Socialization: The first element of KM is socialization. Socialization and a learning management system or eLearning go hand-in-hand. It’s important to true knowledge management for there to be a free exchange of knowledge and information between employees. Luckily, with an LMS, this is easy to incorporate through the use of chat rooms, and the ability for employees to talk with one another while they’re learning.
- Externalization: There are a few different ways we see externalization playing out, within the business theory of knowledge management. One way is by linking eLearning content to things happening in the real-life workplace. For example, employees can use training and then directly be asked to apply it to their job outside of the virtual learning environment. Another way to integrate externalization is by testing the knowledge of employees. Then, externalization can be used as a way to create new training and learning, based on how employees perform.
- Combination: The combination portion of the knowledge management theory can be implemented in a variety of ways in business. One way to do it is to use both the feedback of employees, as well as subject matter experts to be continuously updating and streamlining training.
- Internalization: Ultimately, the goal of using a learning management system is internalization by employees. They should learn key skills in a way that they can then apply to their jobs.
Some other tips to keep in mind as you’re using a learning management system to implement knowledge management include:
- Use metrics to determine the success of training delivered through a learning management system. Use specific, concrete numbers whenever possible.
- Manager involvement is an essential component of a training and development strategy that’s built on concepts of knowledge management. Managers are the ones who are ultimately going to be responsible for seeing how well employees are meeting key performance indicators as well.
- One of the biggest problems related to knowledge management and learning management systems is that managers aren’t sure of how to maximize the use of a learning management system. Managers and company leaders need to be well-versed on how to derive the most value from the use of a learning management system.
- If you feel like your organization isn’t implementing the concepts of knowledge management in an effective, measurable way, you might want to look at training content and see if it’s relevant and usable.
To sum it all up, knowledge management is a specific business framework, and it’s all about making the best use of intellectual capital. It’s linked to the use of a learning management system.
Some of the business reasons you should learn more about knowledge management include the fact that it facilitates better decision-making in an organization, helps create an organization with a culture of learning and development, and is one of the best ways to create a culture that’s built on the value of innovation.
When organization knowledge and intellectual capital are actively managed, it allows for a constant environment of learning and an exchange of ideas that is the ideal breeding ground for innovation.