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A Survey of Definitions for Knowledge Management

The following 61 Knowledge Management definitions are exactly as I originally published in a 2008 blog (as of June 2019, the original blog is still available via the Internet Archive “Way Back Machine”). The links have not been verified and undoubtedly many no longer work. I am republishing this for historical record and to refer to in an upcoming blog with my latest personal definition and thinking.

  1. “Distinct but interdependent processes of knowledge creation, knowledge storage and retrieval, knowledge transfer and knowledge application.” (Alavi and Leidner, 2001, as reported by Jennex in the reference below)
  2. “The explicit and systematic management of intellectual capital and organizational knowledge as well as the associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, retrieving, leveraging, and using intellectual capital for the purposes of improving organizations and the people in them.” (ASTD Learning System Module-8: Knowledge Management Concepts, Philosophy, and Theory (PDF))
  3. “The process that attempts to facilitate the full generation and flow of knowledge within an organization.” (Madelyn Blair, Pelerei Inc., Definitions, web page viewed 16 March 2008)
  4. “Focuses on defining the knowledge employees or systems use to perform activities and saving it in some format so that others can access it.” (BPTrends, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  5. “A system or framework for managing the organizational processes that create, store and distribute knowledge, as defined by its collective data, information, and body of experience.” (Bridgefield Group, ERP/Supply chain Glossary, viewed 15 March 2008)
  6. “…knowledge management is the process by which we manage human centred assets.” “…the function of knowledge management is to guard and grow knowledge owned by individuals, and where possible, transfer the asset into a form where it can be more readily shared by other employees in the company.” (Annie Brooking, Corporate Memory: Strategies For Knowledge Management, 1999, p.154)
  7. “A business process that formalizes the management and leverage of a firm’s intellectual assets. KM is an enterprise discipline that promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access, and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people.” (Business Resources Online, The e-Business Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  8. “Unfortunately, there’s no universal definition of knowledge management (KM), just as there’s no agreement as to what constitutes knowledge in the first place. For this reason, it’s best to think of KM in the broadest context. Succinctly put, KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Most often, generating value from such assets involves codifying what employees, partners, and customers know, and sharing that information among employees, departments and even with other companies in an effort to devise best practices.” (CIO Magazine Tutorial, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  9. “Knowledge management is the name of a concept in which an enterprise consciously and comprehensively gathers, organises, shares, and analyzes its knowledge in terms of resources, documents, and people skills.” (CreotecElectronic business terms and definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008.) [19 March update: a duplicate of definition 37]
  10. “Managing tacit knowledge (held in an individual’s brain in the form of know-how and experience) and explicit knowledge (recorded independently of humans).” (The Cura Consortium: Consultants in Information Management, Glossary of Information Management Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  11. “The distribution, access, and retrieval of unstructured information about “human experiences” between interdependent individuals or among members of a workgroup. Knowledge management involves identifying a group of people who have a need to share knowledge, developing technological support that enables knowledge sharing, and creating a process for transferring and disseminating knowledge.” (eLiteral, Decision Support Systems Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  12. “KM refers to activities aimed at enhancing knowledge processing. These activities are interventions designed to affect how knowledge processing is done.” (Joseph Firestone, On Doing Knowledge Management, Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 2008, p.17)
  13. “The leveraging of collective wisdom to increase responsiveness and innovation.” (Carl Frappaolo, Knowledge Management, 2006, p.8)
  14. “…a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, managing and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These information assets may include databases, documents, policies, and procedures, as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience resident in individual workers.” (Gartner Group Inc, October 1996 – cited in numerous books and articles)
  15. “The tools, techniques, and strategies to retain, analyze, organize, improve, and share business expertise.” (Todd R. Groff and Thomas P. Jones, Introduction to Knowledge Management: KM in Business, 2003, p.2)
  16. “The collection of processes that govern the creation, dissemination, and leveraging of knowledge to fulfill organisational objectives.” (David GurteenKnowledge Management, web page viewed 16 March 2008. Introduced as “A common definition is…”
  17. “Knowledge Management is a business philosophy. It is an emerging set of principles, processes, organisational structures, and technology applications that help people share and leverage their knowledge to meet their business objectives.” David GurteenKnowledge Management, web page viewed 16 March 2008. Introduced as “Another definition…”
  18. “An entity’s systematic and deliberate efforts to expand, cultivate, and apply available knowledge in ways that add value to the entity in the sense of positive results in accomplishing its objectives or fulfilling its purpose.” (Holsapple and Joshi, 2004, as reported by Jennex in the reference below)
  19. “Knowledge management is…about retrieving, acquiring, and adapting corporate knowledge.” (Tom Hresko, What Knowledge Management Isn’tdestinationCRM.com, 2003)
  20. “The mistaken idea that what is in peoples heads (knowledge) is fundamentally the same stuff as can be documented in words, pictures charts etc. (information). This underestimates the unique and essential value-adding role of people, who make things happen by applying skills, experience, reason, intuition, passion, decision to information. You can’t bottle this stuff.” (Information Alchemy, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  21. “The practice of selectively applying knowledge from previous experiences of decision making to current and future decision-making activities with the express purpose of improving the organization’s effectiveness.” (Jennex, Knowledge Management in Modern Organizations, 2005, p.4)
  22. “The process of improving the job performance of knowledge workers by eliminating relevant ignorance and inability as quickly and inexpensively as possible AND providing the proper environment, motivation and role models. This simple definition encompasses a very broad range of worthy activities, including:
    1. identifying internal or external best practices and adopting them as standards
    2. making sure that useful innovations move quickly throughout the organization
    3. useful training efforts
    4. internal communication and journalism
    5. managing, coaching and mentoring

    “Knowledge Management is simply management — of people and of processes — in any organization that is predominantly made up of knowledge workers. Because knowledge resides in people, knowledge management is people management — and must address the hearts as well as the brains of the workforce.” (KM-Experts, Definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  23. “The art of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value for an organization’s clients and its people.” (Ellen Knapp, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, as reported by Firestone in his Key Issues paper, p.18. 18 March update: Also used by Stan Garfield at HP in this presentation.)
  24. “A set of processes used to effectively use a knowledge system to locate the knowledge required by one or more people to perform their assigned tasks.” (Knowledge Based Solutions, Definition of Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  25. “A business activity with two primary aspects:
    1. treating the knowledge component of business activities as an explicit concern of business reflected in strategy, policy, and practice at all levels of the organization
    2. making a direct connection between an organization’s intellectual assets — both explicit [recorded] and tacit [personal know-how] — and positive business results.” (Knowledge Praxis, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  26. “The process of systematically and actively managing and leveraging the stores of knowledge in an organisation” (Laudon, K.C. & Laudon, J.P. 1998, Managing Information Systems: New approaches to organisation and technology, Fifth Edition, p. 553. From this University of Southern Queensland document – not validated with the original source.)
  27. “Consciously managing knowledge as a resource and using it in a targeted manner within the company.” (MahleCommercial/general glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  28. “Knowledge Management refers to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival, and competence against discontinuous environmental change. Essentially it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” (Yogesh Malhotra, Interview by Alistair Craven, 2005, web page viewed 16 March 2008)
  29. “The way a company stores, organizes and accesses internal and external information. Narrower terms are: ‘Organizational Memory’ and ‘Knowledge Transfer’.” (Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century, MIT Sloan, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  30. “A process for optimizing the effective application of intellectual capital to achieve objectives. In an organizational setting, this would mean a systematic approach to getting an organization to make the best possible use of knowledge in implementing its mission, broadly viewed as either sustainable competitive advantage or long-term high performance. From the individual viewpoint, this can be extrapolated to mean optimizing the effective application of the individual’s knowledge (their potential and actual capacity to take effective action in varied and uncertain situations) to achieve the individual’s professional and personal goals.” (Mountain Quest Institute, Definitions, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  31. “A multi-disciplined approach to achieving organisational objectives by making best use of knowledge. It involves the design, review and implementation of both social and technological processes to improve the application of knowledge, in the collective interest of stakeholders.” (New South Wales Government, Department of Commerce, Glossary of Recordkeeping Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  32. “Conscious strategy of putting both tacit and explicit knowledge into action by creating context, infrastructure, and learning cycles that enable people to find and use the collective knowledge of the enterprise.” (Carla O’Dell, Susan Elliott, and Cindy Hubert, Knowledge Management: A Guide for Your Journey to Best-Practice ProcessesAPQC, 2000, p.1)
  33. “Conscious strategy of getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time and helping people share and put information into action in ways that strive to improve organizational performance.” (Carla O’Dell and C. Jackson Grayson, If Only We Knew What We Know, 1998, p.6)
  34. “Eliciting and sharing the experience and intelligence of everyone working in a particular process.” (PHRED SolutionsGlossary of Terms, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  35. “A method for gathering information and making it available to others.” (Qualis Health, Collaboratives Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  36. “The systematic processes by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared, and leveraged.” (Melisse Clemmons Rumizen, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management, 2002, p.9)
  37. “Knowledge management is the name of a concept in which an enterprise consciously and comprehensively gathers, organizes, shares, and analyzes its knowledge in terms of resources, documents, and people skills.” (SearchDomino.com, web page viewed 13 March 2008. This is the target page for ‘knowledge management’ from whatis.com.)
  38. “Knowledge Management is the explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge – and its associated processes of creation, organization, diffusion, use, and exploitation – in pursuit of business objectives.” (David Skyrme Associates, web page viewed 13 March 2008)
  39. “Knowledge Management [is] a term that can have multiple meanings. In business information technology knowledge management refers to an entire integrated system for accumulation, integration, manipulation, and access of data across multiple organizations, including such data as credit data, consumer profiles, market data, product development data, etc.” (TranslationDirectory.com, viewed 15 March 2008)
  40. “The process of systematically and actively managing and leveraging the stores of knowledge in an organisation is called knowledge management. It is the process of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value.” (UniSA Planning and Assurance Services, Glossary, web page viewed 15 March 2008)
  41. “Providing access to knowledge, creating an environment that encourages the sharing of knowledge, and building a desire to learn.” (Karl Weik, as paraphrased by Madelyn Blair in her Personal Knowledge Management: An approach to understanding what you know and need to know through conversation and story)
  42. “A range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge.” (Wikipedia, viewed 15 March 2008. Earlier, this definition continued with “…for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organisations.”)
  43. “The collection, organization, analysis, and sharing of information held by workers and groups within an organization.” (WorldWideLearn, Common Terms Used in Online Learning, web page viewed 15 March 2008.)
  44. [Addendum begins here. Listed in order viewed, contrast to alphabetical by source] “A business process that creates organizational capacity. KM can lead to measurable outcomes and results related to organizational goals, learning, and value creation for customers and employee communities.” (Kaye Vivian, KM Definitions, 2005, blog viewed 18 March 2008. In the comments here, Kaye mentions “I have refined my understanding since this post”)
  45. “A process that uses a variety of social tools and technologies to capture information that an individual has absorbed and modified, using their own personal experiences and personal understandings as a filter, into a modified iteration of information that can be reviewed and used by others.”(Kaye Vivian, in a suggested revision to Wikipedia definition, KM and Learning: A Matter of Definition, 2006, blog viewed 18 March 2008)
  46. “The dynamic process of turning an unreflective practice into a reflective one by elucidating the rules guiding the activities of the practice, by helping give a particular shape to collective understandings, and by facilitating the emergence of heuristic knowledge.” (H. Tsoukas and E. Vladimirou, as reported by Kaye Vivian in Definitions of KM, 2006, blog viewed 18 March 2008. RS note: I have the good intention of finding my way back to the original source for this and the next seven.)
  47. “Processes, technology, and behaviors that deliver the right content to the right people at the right time and in the right context so that they can make the best decisions quickly to solve problems, exploit business opportunities, accelerate competency and innovation.” (unattributed, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  48. “The art of creating value from an organisation’s Intangible Assets.” (Karl-Eric Sveiby, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  49. “An effort to retain, analyze and organize employee expertise to make it available to the organization.” (Stuart, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  50. “Achieving organizational goals through strategy-driven motivation and facilitation of (knowledge-) workers to develop, enhance their capability to interpret data and information, experience, skills, culture, character, personality, feelings, etc.) through the process of giving meaning to these data and information.” (Roelof P. ult Beijerse, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  51. “The creation, evolution, exchange, and application of new ideas into marketable goods and services for the success of an enterprise, for the vitality of a nation’s economy, for the advancement of society.” (Debra Amidon, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  52. “A collaborative and integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets.” (Grey, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  53. “Is about connecting people to people and people to information to create competitive advantage.” (Hoyt Consulting, as reported by Kaye Vivian, Ibid.)
  54. “Knowledge management is a discipline that uses a variety of methodologies to connect people to people and people to information to improve decision making.” (Kaye Vivian, offered in the comments here as approximately the one she uses when asked socially what KM is. This is essentially the same as what I use in similar situations, although I’m bothered by leaving out explicit mention of ‘flow’ and ’sharing’ aspects.)
  55. (added 30 March 2008) “Knowledge Management develops systems and processes to acquire and share intellectual assets. It increases the generation of useful, actionable and meaningful information and seeks to increase both individual and team learning. In addition, it can maximize the value of an organization’s intellectual base across diverse functions and disparate locations. Knowledge Management maintains that successful businesses are a collection not of products but of distinctive knowledge bases. This intellectual capital is the key that will give the company a competitive advantage with its targeted customers. Knowledge Management seeks to accumulate intellectual capital that will create unique core competencies and lead to superior results.” (Bain & CompanyManagement Tools 2007 an Executive’s GuideKnowledge Management)
  56. (added 1 April 2008) “…a concerted effort to improve how knowledge is created, delivered and used…” (Davenport, Prusak, and Strong in Putting Ideas to Work, MIT Sloan Management Review, 10 March 2008)
  57. (added 3 April 2008) “KM is simply the art enabling trusted, context-rich conversations among the appropriate members of communities about things these communities are passionate about.” (Dave Pollard, How to Save the World, KM 0.0 – Simply Enabling Trusted Context-Rich Conversations Among Communities That Care, 6 December 2007)
  58. (added 12 April 2008) “A branch of management science that deals with ways to optimize the generation, flow and application of knowledge in the enterprise. KM is a way to achieve better productivity and greater agility.” (Miguel Cornejo Castro, in Knowledge wave: Visions of Knowledge Management in Practice 2, v1.3, p.5, March 2008)
  59. (added 10 May 2008) “A discipline concerned with the management of people, processes, and infrastructures relating to knowledge-intensive processes and artifacts; where knowledge is defined as ’solutions to problems’.” (William P. (Bill) Hall, in 9 May 2008 post to actKM discussion group)
  60. (added 17 May 2008) “Knowledge Management is concerned with using to best advantage the knowledge and experiences that have been gained across an organization” via Gerrit Visser in his 17 May 2008 Twitter update)
  61. (added 25 October 2008) “Knowledge Management refers to the management of the components and enabling of relationships from which knowledge emerges: used to enhance decision making, spark innovation, and comprehend weak signals in the information environment.  Knowledge management does not focus on managing knowledge itself; rather, it seeks the positive interaction of the component elements that can be managed to lay the foundation for better decision making, innovation, and adaptation.” (John Bordeaux in his 12 October 2008 So What is Knowledge Management Anyway? blog post.)
  62. (added 7 December 2008, prompted by a comment from Syed Azeem) Leveraging relevant knowledge assets to improve organization performance, with emphasis on improving efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation. Michael Stankosky in Creating the Discipline of Knowledge Management: The Latest in University Research. p.6.

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