Knowledge Organization & Assessment

The idea that firms should categorize their knowledge assets is not a new one (Horvath 2000, Bukowitz & Williams 1999). In order to determine what resources they have at their disposal and to pin point strengths and weaknesses, management needs to organize the knowledge into something manageable. Knowledge organization involves activities that "classify, map, index, and categorize knowledge for navigation, storage, and retrieval" (Botha et al. 2008). Markus (2001) assigns the role of preparing, sanitizing, and organizing this knowledge to a "knowledge intermediary". This may be a knowledge manager or it may also be the actual producer of the knowledge. The point is, that in order for knowledge to be shared (either for reuse in a business situation or as a tool for knowledge creation), it must be prepared in such a way that it can be identified, retrieved, and understood by the knowledge user.

Explicit knowledge organization: IT is generally encouraged as a means of organizing and retrieving (Gamble and Blackwell 2001, Botha et al 2008, etc.). IT based systems use taxonomies and ontologies to classify and organize knowledge and information (Bali et al 2009). These are categorization methods that create a logical, hierarchical knowledge map, allowing the user to navigate by category. However, taxonomies are very expensive to create (Botha et al 2008). It is relevant to note here that although explicit knowledge is not considered as valuable as tacit knowledge, due to its sheer volume, an effective method of classification and retrieval is often essential. Other tools include libraries and data marts (Gamble & Blackwell 2001).

Tacit knowledge organization: Use of focus groups, expertise guides, social network analysis, and knowledge coordinators (Gamble and Blackwell 2001 and Liebowitz 2009). The role of the latter is to understand in which context the tacit knowledge was created. Expertise locators, such as corporate yellow pages, social network analysis and other knowledge maps can be used to pinpoint the location and categorize the valuable expertise of tacit knowledge sources (a.k.a. experts). They can also shed light into how widespread certain tacit knowledge is, enabling the firm to plan ahead for the retirement of key employees.

Embedded knowledge organization: Job/workplace design, workflow analyses and performance measures (Gamble & Blackwell 2001) can be used to organize and assess embedded knowledge. Mapping is also useful here, and knowledge maps outlining embedded knowledge can be formulated under the guidance of knowledge brokers (Horvath 2000).

Liebowitz emphasizes the determination of how important certain knowledge is to the organization. The two key factors to examine are knowledge severity or criticality and knowledge availability. The more critical the knowledge and the more unavailable it is (e.g. if only one or a few experts exist and/or if they are near retirement age), the more attention this knowledge deserves.

Knowledge organization and assessment can seem like an expensive endeavor, particularly since the return on investment is indirect. In other words, there is little visible gain from meticulously classifying and organizing knowledge assets. However, it is an important step in the knowledge management and reuse process. As discussed in the subsection on knowledge detection, the organization can put systems in place that facilitate the detection and organization of knowledge. These depend on the situation within which the knowledge was created, and the possible recipients. A closer look at this specific aspect is presented in the recommendations segment of the knowledge reuse subsection.

Alan Frost M.Sc., 2010 - Updated 2012

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