Knowledge Management – L. Prusak

The article “Where Did Knowledge Management Come From” by L. Prusak discusses different perspectives on development of knowledge management, analyzes impact of globalization on knowledge management and identifies disciplines which have shaped the field.  The article is retrieved from online database devoted to knowledge management and related issues.
To find the article I had to refer to online search engines. Despite the fact that the paper is found in the Internet database, it is very scientific, opinionative and informative as the author provides examples and strong evidence to defend his positions, opinions and ideas. I think knowledge management plays crucial role nowadays in business world as it aims at fostering economic and financial development on both national and international levels.
Prusak writes that nowadays knowledge management is widely known and practiced in many companies and organizations as it gives an excellent opportunity to look back, to admit faults and to work out new perspectives. Some analysts assert that knowledge management may replace declining revenues from the waning re-engineering movement, whereas others claims that knowledge management is able to enrich data and information management methods.

Prusak says that “perhaps the majority of sceptics take the position—not an unnatural one—that every so-called new approach is, in reality, either old or wrong”. (Prusak 2001) It is necessary to note that Prusak defines knowledge management as system of thought and says that it is a combination of new ideas with old practices. He means that practitioners should be re-assured rather than unnerved.
The author also discusses knowledge management in terms of globalization context. He says that globalization is the most obvious culprit. He argues that the volume of global trade is likely to be unprecedented. Today the number of global products is the highest compared to the previous years. Information technologies are the primary contributor of speeding up expansion of global trade and the decline of centralized economies. It results in frenetic atmosphere within companies which are simply forced to bring new products as fast as possible.
The central idea of the article is that knowledge can be hardly codified, digitized and distributed. The key components of knowledge are considered design, decisions, judgment, leadership, innovation, persuasiveness, and humor. They become more valuable than in the past years. Prusak claims that “a perhaps less evident but no less important trend is an emerging knowledge-centric view of the firm”. (Prusak 2001) He cites Sidney Winter who describes firms as “organizations that know how to do things”. (Prusak 2001)
It is necessary to underline that economists define firm as a coordinated collection of capabilities and abilities based on experience, knowledge and history. Cognitive and social skills may limit firm’s effectiveness if not managed properly. Knowledge is claimed to the building block of the mentioned capabilities, especially knowledge which is the most specific to company’s objectives and operating areas.
The next point to admit is that the author identifies primary disciplines which helped to shape the filed of knowledge management. The first is economics. Prusak assumes that if a company manages to coordinate the learning process it will be able to increase effectiveness and productivity. Otherwise, the company may fail to compete. Working out learning strategies is important issue in knowledge management.
Secondly, sociology also contributes development of knowledge management on micro and macro levels. For example, at micro level “sociology’s strong research interest in the complex structures of internal networks and communities has obvious relevance to knowledge management”. (Prusak 2001) The author suggests that knowledge is growing as practitioners are studying networks and communities as the units of knowledge managements. Finally, philosophy and psychology contribute knowledge management as it aims at revealing implicit and explicit knowledge as well as exploring differences between ‘know how’ and ‘know what’.
Further, Prusak distinguishes three practices which affect the content of knowledge managements. They are information management, human capital and the quality movement. Information management has been swiftly developing during the 70-80s. Usually, information technology is understood as “a subset of the larger information technology and information science world”. (Prusak 2001) Information forms a body of the thought focusing on how to manage information and how to manipulate it.
Information management deals also with operational techniques, incentive schemes and governance. The quality movement is claimed to concentrate primarily on internal customers and transparent goals. However, knowledge management hasn’t achieved the levels of measurable success. Despite that fact, the quality movement adapted the goals to different purposes of knowledge management. Finally, human capital is based on strong theoretical base. Human capital approach helps to identify financial advantage over other firms through training and professional education.
The article discusses the origins of knowledge management, looks at past events and future development opportunities, and distinguishes key knowledge management components and practices. The article is directly related to the field of knowledge management as the author provides strong theoretical background of knowledge management, related disciplines and perspectives on future. The author tends to make people more aware of benefits offered by knowledge management.
Works Cited
Prusak, L. (2001). Where Did Knowledge Management Come From. Available at http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/404/prusak.html Accessed March 5, 2008.
 

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