Your most valuable asset is your intellectual capital, i.e., the knowledge of your employees. Unfortunately, when people move on, their knowledge goes with them. There are two different, but not mutually exclusive, strategic approaches for managing tacit and explicit knowledge.

Burchiello noted for his
paradoxical style and founder of
a school of writing.

Externalization of tacit knowledge has focused on both human-centric and ICT-centric knowledge management theory for over fifteen years. The whole conception of tacit knowledge in the knowledge management literature has been criticized for being based on an incorrect interpretation of Polanyi’s original theory (‘Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth’) of knowledge. At the same time, it has been reported that many knowledge management projects related to the externalization of tacit knowledge do not meet their objectives. These findings suggest that there is something wrong with the dominant epistemology of knowledge management theory.

Much of the focus on knowledge management, especially concerning some of the works, has been implementing knowledge management systems and strategies, making implicit knowledge explicit and possible to store. That perspective takes a static view of knowledge, treating it as an object and possible to separate from practice. Much of the early literature also takes a normative perspective, focusing on becoming successful when implementing knowledge management strategy. However, the early literature has been questioned by several researchers who have offered critical reviews and questioned whether or not it is at all possible to manage knowledge while treating it as an object. (1) They argue that knowledge should rather be understood from a constructivist approach that treats knowledge as a social process.


Circus Maximus, Rome. Events
and social center.

Providing a platform from which knowledge can easily be shared and captured that extends employee’s network of trusted colleagues and allows them to recognize and be recognized should be the goal of any modern knowledge management effort. Employees want to engage with their colleagues and be recognized for their work. Addressing employee engagement issues within your knowledge management framework will lead to better disseminating organizational knowledge and more highly engaged employees.

  • Personalization – Knowledge management systems designed to help people locate and communicate with each other focuses on spreading experience and engaging employees.
  • Codification – Knowledge management systems designed to convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge focus on applications that facilitate the storage, transfer, and application of knowledge.
  • Colleagues – The #1  thing employees cite that they like about their jobs is their relationships with colleagues.
  • Trust – The #1 predictor of knowledge sharing is trust between employees.
  • Recognition – Less than 1/3 of employees feel strongly that they are valued for their work.

Benefits of a knowledge management platform with engagement

  • Efficiency – Through the reduction of errors and unnecessary revision
  • Quality – Through the sharing of best practice and new technology knowledge
  • Consistency – By empowering new developers and teams with reliable information
  • Adaptability – As knowledge is captured, capitalized, and not lost to attrition
  • Retention – Through enhancing employee morale
Archimedes revolutionary screw

Inspiring ideas

When implementing knowledge management with engagement, you have a wide variety of possible elements to choose from that will provide you different benefits.

Engagement elements – Peer recognition helps empower employees and align culture. Recognize your employees and allow them to recognize each other. Clear objectives help break down communication barriers and promote accountability by using specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound objectives. Gamification taps into the human competitive nature; personal or team goals address employees’ need for recognition and feedback.

Insight – Information extracted from the system that allows more nimble HR decisions. Surveys allow you to effectively gauge the pulse of your organization by finding out what your employees are really thinking. Analytics helps you better understand your culture and how your employees interact.

Knowledge – Elements that facilitate knowledge retrieval and application. Provide a collaboration space that integrates with actual workflows and captures the knowledge that is produced there. A Messaging feature provides a useful searchable chat and allows you to mine a wealth of data. Provide a platform for communities to form naturally and capture their knowledge. Assign designated experts or let the community select them. Build trust networks and break down silos. Let users vote up the right answers and best contributors. Designate the official best answer and capture the knowledge.

“Knowledge Management should not be seen simply as a set of discrete tasks (storage, transfer, and creation), but as a set of continuous practices (decision making, acting, and negotiating) that support the circulation of knowledge.” — Diedrich& Guzman.

Knowledge management maturity

Where you are, and where you want to be? Radiant will assess where you are and help you map the path to innovation. Reaching the goal of dynamic knowledge supporting continuous improvement requires sponsorship, buy-in, and a well-crafted strategy.

APQC’s levels of knowledge management maturity

APQC Knowledge Management Progression


Plan the flow of knowledge

Agora at Athens. Commercial, assembly, and residents gathering place.

It is a mistake to implement a knowledge management approach such as communities of practice or an expertise location system without first understanding the flow you are trying to enable. The first step in any knowledge management initiative is understanding how you want knowledge to move through the organization. Once you determine how and what knowledge needs to flow (and from and to whom), you can enable the process with knowledge management tools and approaches such as communities and networks, best practice transfer or lessons learned programs, wikis, enterprise social media, and so on.

Focus on breaking down barriers

A system must be used to be effective. A flexible, easy-to-use system that integrates naturally with existing workflows is needed. Focus on breaking down barriers impeding knowledge flow and not attempting to change an existing culture immediately. Blending the correct mix of elements is critical. The first step of any new knowledge management effort should be a knowledge audit to assess the current landscape and identify barriers.

For a knowledge management project to succeed and the Knowledge Management System (KMS) to become a stable, taken for granted part of the daily work activities in an organization, human and non-human others’ actions, apart from the project group members, are needed. It is indeterminable from the beginning and throughout the process what these actions will be. (2) From implementation to appropriation: understanding knowledge management system development and introduction as a process of translation. (3)

Knowledge management is about enabling what most people want to do naturally—share what they know and learn from others. The barriers to sharing are often structural: there is not enough time, the process is cumbersome, people don’t know the source or recipients and are not sure they can trust the information, or they resist codification because they know instinctively that tacit knowledge is richer than explicit knowledge. (4)

Example elements of a knowledge management implementation

Selecting the right blend of elements is a critical part of a successful implementation.

Crafting and implementing a strategy

For a knowledge management system to work, selecting technological solutions cannot be devoid of people and processes.

  1. Audit – Assess barriers, analyze user needs, define business goals.
  2. Plan – Confirm a vision, define the scope and elements of the effort, create a roadmap.
  3. Communicate – Solicit input from the user base and begin the change management process.
  4. Execute – Configure and integrate technology elements, adjust on user feedback.
  5. Adopt – Communicate, train, workshop, staged rollout, etc.
  6. Manage and Evaluate – Manage, evaluate, and iterate based on user response.

Selecting technology

Once you understand the barriers to information flow and your users’ needs, you can begin identifying technology to surmount those barriers. Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or custom applications may be selected, or a combination of the two may provide the best solution.

COTS systems that offer required functionality and can be deployed with or without customization.

  • Quicker deployment
  • Strong customer support
  • Access to the user community
  • A standard and stable environment
  • Interfaces vetted for usability.
  • Existing training materials
  • API integration and support for 3rd party applications
  • Flexible pricing models
  • Facilitates handoff to customer organization for ongoing support and iteration

Custom applications are purpose-built applications that integrate best of breed components.

  • Tailored to your specific needs and culture
  • Scalable
  • Facilitates program integration
  • Improved security – precise ‘admin’ rights to user groups
  • Open-source use to achieve cost savings.
  • Adaptable to meet the needs of the evolving enterprise

Radiant is technology agnostic and will work with you to select the best blend of applications to match your needs. Let’s start a conversation about the best choice for your organization.

(1) (e.g., Styhre, 2003; Alvesson, 2004; Tsoukas, 2008) (2) Diedrich, A., & Guzman, G. (2015) (3) Journal of Knowledge Management, 19(6), 1273-1294 (4) APQC 2015 KM White paper