Knowledge management

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 23 Feb 2016


  • knowledge strategy and leadership, intellectual capital, knowledge economies, economics of information, innovation, collaboration and communities, communication and culture, knowledge technologies, knowledge architecture, knowledge asset(s) management, organizational learning, knowledge elicitation and knowledge representation


See also Information management | Knowledge translation and synthesis | Managing health libraries | Research Portal for Academic Librarians‎

"...knowledge is a key resource and competitive advantage [in organizations] ...traditional knowledge management attempts to capture existing knowledge within formal systems, such as in databases. Yet systematically addressing dynamic "knowing" that makes a difference requires participation of people who are fully engaged in creating, refining, communicating and using it" — Wenger, 1998

Knowledge management refers to the activities and processes in an organization that use and leverage the intellectual capital of human resources. Areas targeted by knowledge management are strategic planning, working towards and achieving goals and visioning. Forecasting and planning may ultimately translate into developing systematic approaches to use knowledge workers within organizations in order to reach short and long-term goals. From an individual perspective, KM is defined as the optimal application of one's knowledge (potential and actual capacity) to attaining professional and personal goals.

In health care, the connection to knowledge management may be obvious to some and less so to others. Health librarians function as a type of knowledge manager even though some KM activities extend a librarian's traditional roles outside what they have done mostly within the library. In hospital accreditation, for example, knowledge management is an ongoing information management activity and health librarians often assume a role on the committees that are struck to gain accreditation. Knowledge management also dovetails with the strategic goals of modern health organizations through the promotion of evidence and in conducting health research via databases such as PubMed, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library.

What is knowledge management?

  • In the digital age, we should try to make a distinction between random information and knowledge which has context and authority
  • Knowledge management can be defined as a type of management process; it enables organizations to use and re-use someone's knowledge to achieve organizational goals
  • Knowledge management’s success depends on many elements, especially planning and regular monitoring
  • Realization of know-how in health libraries helps to retain staff and provides opportunities to see learning in practice
  • Knowledge in academia provides opportunities to see ourselves as service-oriented and “value-oriented” in organizations
  • Knowledge management works better when initiated as a pilot project under a single framework
  • Knowledge of tools and techniques to achieve better knowledge management is important
  • Knowledge management could accelerate integration, centralization, change and vice-versa

Knowledge "tactics"

  • Use more corporate-modelled strategies and knowledge management processes used in private sector
  • Discuss optimal roles for medical librarians with others in knowledge management
  • Share examples of participation in knowledge transfer in hospitals from traditional perspectives
  • Craft a list of activities that can be offered to library users
  • Some tactics used currently are the building of expertise directories and communities of practice
  • Collecting and share best practices and stories to support further clinical and organizational improvement
  • Draft processes to implement knowledge tactics and aim to illustrate an expanded application of expertise of information professionals
  • Try to open up or break down silos, share experiences and sustain learning throughout the organization
  • Think about an implementation plan for your role that includes measurement of impact on quality and safety of health care
  • Engage participants in evaluation to improve role of librarians as partners in healthcare safety and quality

Tacit knowledge capture

Three major approaches are used to the capture of knowledge of groups and individuals:

  • Interviewing experts
  • Learning by being told
  • Learning by observation

Interviewing experts is done through structured interviewing or recording stories. Structured interviewing in a particular area is the most commonly-used technique to capture information. An example of a structured interview is an exit interview. Learning by talking can be done by interviewing or by task analysis. Either way, experts teach novices the process of a task. Task analysis is the process of determining tasks or policy by analyzing what needs to be done to complete them. Learning by observation can be done by presenting experts with sample problems, scenarios or case studies; then, observing the processes used to solve the problem. Other techniques for capturing tacit knowledge are: ad-hoc sessions, e-learning, action learning, road maps and so on. All of these approaches should be recorded in order to transfer the tacit knowledge into reusable explicit knowledge. Nonaka has proposed the SECI (Socialization, Externalization, Combination, Internalization) model, one of the most widely cited theories in knowledge management to present the spiraling knowledge processes of interaction between explicit and tacit knowledge.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Relevance to health librarians

The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools recently published, Organizational change and capacity building for evidence-informed public health, an important document that also mentions the valuable role of librarians in EIPH. The NCCMT are not the only organizations shedding light on librarians especially when it comes to organizational change and "knowledge management". Knowledge management includes activities such as management of electronic resources, making resources available to clinicians and participating on information teams in hospitals. Most of what health librarians do on a daily basis - accessing, evaluating, filtering, packaging and delivering information - can be called knowledge management. The title "knowledge services" follows a service-oriented model made popular in the United States; it comprises information systems, of which knowledge services is a part. It may also include network services, support services, media services (even social media), and so on. Many of the services health libraries provide are connected to consultation services and assistance to clinicians in helping them organize information.

It is increasingly important to recognize and emphasize the services provided by health libraries (and librarians), rather than facilities (i.e., "the library itself"). Some physicians recognize the value of medical librarians calling them knowledge navigators or, referring to them as informationists and clinical librarians. All of these terms infer the handling and directing of medical evidence to make decisions in the clinical setting.

Knowledge translation and synthesis

Knowledge can be examined from three perspectives; first, as an actual object, knowledge exists independently of human intelligence as an asset that is owned and used as needed. Second, knowledge exists in the minds of people who share knowledge with others in exchange for intangible rewards. The third proposes that knowledge-based systems are developed as a result of development and support in a community of practice (CoP). Here, knowledge is embedded within a community as a product of its context and goals. Most knowledge management (KM) projects record and store information in order for it to be retrieved and used by its users. In KM, attention is focused on utilization of tacit knowledge or soft knowledge where the latter is described as internalized experiences, skills, domain and cultural knowledge embedded in practices. Computer-based collaborative tools such as web 2.0, discussion groups, electronic bulletin boards and chat facilities are ideally-suited to KM in this perspective. In a community of practice, this process of soft knowledge development is aided by social interaction with members. This type of KM works with other types of knowledge and must be considered when developing knowledge management systems. Attributes and development of soft knowledge using models like Wenger’s reification/participation paradigm are necessary to balance hard and soft knowledge interactions. This idea reinforces CoP as a forum for creating knowledge, one that considers the development of soft as well as hard knowledge.

Knowledge translation

"Many terms are used to describe the process of putting knowledge into action [Graham ID et al; * reference below]. In the United Kingdom and Europe, the terms implementation science and research utilization are commonly used in this context. In the United States, the terms dissemination and diffusion, research use, knowledge transfer, and uptake are often used. Canada commonly uses the terms knowledge transfer and exchange. In this book, we use the terms knowledge translation (KT) and knowledge to action interchangeably." p.3
"Some organizations may use the term knowledge translation synonymously with commercialization or technology transfer. However, this narrow view does not consider the various stakeholders involved or the actual process of using knowledge in decision making." p.4
“Knowledge brokering” is sometimes used (see CHSRF publications as they seem to use “knowledge exchange” and “knowledge translation”) as is “knowledge utilization” – great site including database and very useful weekly current awareness bulletin available via the CHSRF/CIHR Chair on Knowledge Transfer and Innovation site ( at the Université Laval (Réjean Landry, Director). Terms such as "bench to bedside" and "mouse to man" are also used in less formal settings. Also, "translational science/research/medicine" is used especially in the US although sometimes in talking about the application of basic science in clinical / applied research - see key article: Zerhouni E. Translational and clinical science: time for a new vision. N Engl J Med. 2005;353:1621-23.
  • the purpose of this learning module is to build knowledge and skill in the area of evaluation of health research initiatives (including knowledge translation)
  • Using evidence: advances and debates in bridging health research and action.
  • Renée Lyons, professor and Canada Research Chair, Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre (AHPRC), Dalhousie University
This monograph grew out of a symposium on health and knowledge translation (KT) held at Green Templeton College, Oxford

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