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In: Business and Management

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Definition of Knowledge: A Business Perspective

Knowledge in business provides guidance to humans so that they can make judgments, formulate decisions and do their work. Business knowledge provides context. It tells us who should act, what should be done, when it should happen, where work should be conducted, why it is important, and how to do it so that we can optimize our effectiveness. Implicit in this view of knowledge is the assumption of purpose: of relevance to the business’ mission. From this perspective, knowledge is not simply a higher level of information. It is the guide, which helps us use or process data and information to deliver optimum results.

Knowledge Types

It has become an accepted convention to categorize knowledge into two major types: Tacit and Explicit. Tacit knowledge is that which exists within a human being. It is embodied. Explicit knowledge is that which has been articulated in an artifact of some type outside a human being. It is embedded. There are advantages and disadvantages of the features of each.
Tacit

Drawn from experience and is the most powerful form of knowledge
Difficult to articulate formally
Difficult to communicate and share
Includes insights, feelings, culture and values
Hard to steal or copy
Source of creative advantage

Explicit

Can be articulated formally as pictures, models and documents
Can become obsolete quickly - has a lag
Can be duplicated and transmitted easily
Can be processed and stored by automated means
Can be shared, copied and imitated easily
Easy to steal or copy

Both forms are important, since Tacit knowledge is required for confident human action, yet Explicit knowledge is the most efficient form of distribution and often is the basis for human inference back to tacit knowledge.

Knowledge Dimensions

The word ‘Knowledge’ brings with it a set of semantic problems since it has many meanings depending upon the speaker and listener’s interpretation of the context within which it is spoken and heard. Unlike other words whose different meanings can be inferred from their sentence context, ‘Knowledge’ is easily misunderstood despite the context. A survey of the popular dictionaries provides three main distinctions of the word’s use in business. These can be considered different dimensions since they can co-exist independently and to different degrees. These are Recognition, Guidance and Capability. Often, more than one of these is at play in a dialog, transaction or relationship and the distinction can be critical.

Recognition

The value of Recognition lies in its breadth not its depth, for without identification, knowledge will not be brought to act on the situation requiring its availability. Recognizing a problem with a customer relationship is a critical first step to avoidance of further problems or to its resolution but by itself not sufficient. Many people will claim they know of something but that does not imply that they are knowledgeable in the other two dimensions.

Relevant Guidance

The insight required for delivering performance is the next dimension of knowledge. In requires rich and deep sources of specific relevance so that appropriate action can be taken. Without it people may recognize a need but lack the specific context needed to do the right things in the right ways. Once a problem with a customer relationship has been noticed, it is imperative that access to more detailed guidance, which can provide a means to address the issue, be readily available.

Capability

The third dimension of knowledge is the capability to accomplish some result of value to someone who cares. This know-how is obviously essential to the smooth functioning of the enterprise. It is the deepest form of knowledge and often differentiates the enterprise from others. Clearly, someone must be able to do what it takes to reestablish harmony with our damaged customer relationship after it has been recognized and appropriate actionable guidance has been gained.

A Classification Scheme for Business Knowledge

Utilizing the two knowledge types and three knowledge dimensions, we can view knowledge of importance to the business in a much clearer manner without the semantic problems we have so far experienced in the young life of the Knowledge Management. This can be represented as a two by three matrix, which we have named the ‘Burlton Six-Pack’.

Clearly each of these is different and requires different approaches. This scheme can be used to determine which set of alternatives form the best mix of solutions for a particular knowledge management problem or opportunity and can be used as the basis for classifying and selecting enabling software

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