Defining knowledge management (KM) has always been a challenge. For many years I resisted offering a definition because whenever I included a definition in a talk this would become the main focus of attention. It seemed many people would zero in on a particular word or concept and often ignore the larger message of the talk. After years of sidestepping the question, JoAnn and I developed a general definition that we felt described the essence of KM. Recognizing that a single, non-segment specific, definition might not serve everyone’s needs, we often recommended “definition seekers” search the web.
To simplify this search process, we have gathered a collection of more than 100 KM definitions. We have very deliberately provided a broad selection of KM definitions: some are from academics, while others are from practitioners, some are from government, others from the for profit sector, and still others are from the not for profits. We also tried to include definitions from a variety of counties.
Here is a paper from the Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management in which we present our research on the subject: Defining knowledge management: Toward an applied compendium. Please use this citation for the research:
Girard, J.P., & Girard, J.L. (2015). Defining knowledge management: Toward an applied compendium, Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management. 3(1), 1-20
A frequenecy analysis of the 100 definitions determined the most common words appearing in KM definitions were: knowledge, organziation, process, information, use, share, create and manage. Based on this review, we propose the following defintion:
Knowledge Management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization.
Here is a word cloud that highlights the most common words:
We developed an exercise, which we call Defining KM through Team Conversations, that helps teams define or refine their KM definition, see here. The exercise uses a deck of “KM Cards” that are available here.
Without a doubt, people will question some of the definitions … we welcome the debate that will almost certainly follow. All of the definitions are available on the web and we have also included links to the source. Although we have done our best to correctly articulate the definition and attribute the original author, there will likely be errors. Please email us about any errors you discover. Finally, please do remember that the links are to external sites that we do not control, so proceed with caution!
Knowledge management is the creation, transfer, and exchange of organizational knowledge to achieve a [competitive] advantage.
John Girard & JoAnn Girard
Leading Knowledge 2.0
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge.
KM is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets.
[KM is] organizing an organization’s information and knowledge holistically
Michael E. D. Koenig
Knowledge Management (KM) refers to a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge
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.
Strategies and processes designed to identify, capture, structure, value, leverage, and share an organization’s intellectual assets to enhance its performance and competitiveness. It is based on two critical activities: (1) capture and documentation of individual explicit and tacit knowledge, and (2) its dissemination within the organization.
Knowledge management is the deliberate and systematic coordination of an organization’s people, technology, processes, and organizational structure in order to add value through reuse and innovation. This is achieved through the promotion of creating, sharing, and applying knowledge as well as through the feeding of valuable lessons learned and best practices into corporate memory in order to foster continued organizational learning.
Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice(PDF)
Knowledge Management is the systematic process and strategy for finding, capturing, organizing, distilling and presenting data, information and knowledge for a specific purpose and to serve a specific organization or community.
Dennis J. King
US Department of State
Humanitarian Information Unit (PDF)
The philosophy of knowledge management is made up of both the collect function (data and information dimensions) and the connect function (knowledge and wisdom function)
Kurt April, Farzad Ahmadi Izadi, Farzad Ahmadi
Knowledge Management Praxis
Knowledge management is the systematic underpinning, observatism, measurement and optimization of the company’s knowledge economies.
Understanding Knowledge Management(PDF)
Knowledge management (KM) is like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. There is no universally accepted definition of the term, perhaps reflecting its essential character, its unique interpretation by the organisation that adopts the philosophy
Angela Abell, Nigel Oxbrow
Information Research, 8(1), review no. R070
Knowledge management is the explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge and its associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, diffusion, use and exploitation.
David Skyrme Associates
Knowledge Management is the way you manage your organisation, when you understand the value of your knowledge
Knowledge management is the systematic management of an organization’s knowledge assets for the purpose of creating value and meeting tactical & strategic requirements; it consists of the initiatives, processes, strategies, and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement, and creation of knowledge.
Knowledge Management Tools
[KM is the] systematic and integral approximation which permits to identify, manage and share the knowledge within an organization, and to interconnect people to create new collective knowledge useful to the objectives of the group
The process of systematically capturing, describing, organizing, and sharing knowledge – making it useful, usable, adaptable, and re-useable.
Knowledge Management (KM) is the set of professional practices which improves the capabilities of the organization’s human resources and enhances their ability to share what they know.
Process Renewal Group (doc)
Knowledge management (KM) is a business process that formalizes the management and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets. KM promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people.
KM is first and foremost a branch of management, which makes it a social science. Moreover, it is a branch of management that seeks to improve performance in business by enhancing an organization’s capacity to learn, innovate, and solve problems.
[KM is] the systematic process by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared and leveraged.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge Management
KM is the overall task of managing the processes of knowledge creation, storage and sharing, as well as the related activities.
Knowledge Management Process Model (PDF)
Knowledge management (KM) is an professional practices term encompassing the many unique but related facets of creating, organizing, sharing, and using information and experiences.
KM is a newly emerging, interdisciplinary business model dealing with all aspects of knowledge within the context of the firm, including knowledge creation, codification, sharing, and how these activities promote learning and innovation.
UC Berkeley’s School of Information Management & Systems
Knowledge Management is the systematic, explicit, and deliberate building, renewal, and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise’s knowledge-related effectiveness and returns from its knowledge and intellectual capital assets.
Knowledge Research Institute, Inc (PDF)
[KM is] a set of practices that helps to improve the use and sharing of data and information in decision making.
The process of connecting people to people and people to information to create a competitive advantage.
Jae K. Shim, Joel G. Siegel
Dictionary of Accounting Terms, 5th Edition
Knowledge management involves the identification and analysis of available and required knowledge assets and knowledge asset related processes, and the subsequent planning and control of actions to develop both the assets and the processes so as to fulfil organisational objectives.
Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute
School of Informatics – The University of Edinburgh
Knowledge management is achieving organizational goals through the strategy-driven motivation and facilitation of (knowledge-) workers to develop, enhance and use their capability to interpret data and information (by using available sources of information, experience, skills, culture, character, personality, feelings, etc.) through a process of giving meaning to these data and information.
Roelof P. uit Beijerse
Journal of Knowledge Management
The ability of an organization to manage, store, value, and distribute knowledge
Jay Liebowitz, Lyle C. Wilcox
Knowledge Management and its Integrative Elements
The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.
Knowledge management: efficient handling of information and resources within a commercial organization.
Knowledge management: the way in which knowledge is organized and used within a company, or the study of how to effectively organize and use it.
Knowledge Management draws from existing resources that your organization may already have in place-good information systems management, organizational change management, and human resources management practices.
Thomas H. Davenport, Laurence Prusak
Knowledge Management: The organization systematically provides resources, programs, and tools for knowledge sharing across the organization in support of its mission accomplishment.
Knowledge management involves efficiently connecting those who know with those who need to know, and converting personal knowledge into organisational knowledge
Knowledge management involves activities related to the capture, use and sharing of knowledge by the organisation. It involves the management both of external linkages and of knowledge flows within the enterprise, including methods and procedures for seeking external knowledge and for establishing closer relationships with other enterprises (suppliers, competitors), customers or research institutions. In addition to practices for gaining new knowledge, knowledge management involves methods for sharing and using knowledge, including establishing value systems for sharing knowledge and practices for codifying routines.
Knowledge Management: the technologies involved in creating, disseminating, and utilizing knowledge data; also any enterprise involved in this
Knowledge Management is about the protection, development and exploitation of knowledge assets
P Katsoulakos & D Zevgolis
A Knowledge Management System is one that provides the user with the explicit information required, in exactly the form required, at precisely the time the user needs it.
Knowledge management is a conscious, hopefully consistent, strategy implemented to gather, store and retrieve knowledge and then help distribute the information and knowledge to those who need it in a timely manner
Daniel D. Stuhlman
Stuhlman Management Consultants
Knowledge Management aims to gather, analyze, store and share knowledge and information within an organization. The primary purpose of Knowledge Management is to improve efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.
[KM is] the constant challenge to identify, rescue, create, access, develop, preserve, disseminate, promote, use and reuse knowledge in order to answer to our audiences delivering an excellent service
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.
Knowledge management is the planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling of people, processes and systems in the organization to ensure that its knowledge-related assets are improved and effectively employed.
William R. King
Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning (PDF)
Knowledge management is about knowledge transfers, between explicit and tacit, between individual and collective.
Knowledge management from Theory to Practice (PDF)
Knowledge Management (KM) is a newly emerging, interdisciplinary business model that has knowledge within the framework of an organization as its focus
Elias M. Awad & Hassan M. Ghaziri
Knowledge Management: The creation and subsequent management of an environment which encourages knowledge to be created, shared, learnt, enhanced, organised and utilised for the benefit of the organisation and its customers. This definition assumes that knowledge can not be managed in the traditional sense but that an organisation can optimise the value of its knowledge through an appropriate blend of leadership, values, culture, processes, tools and skills to support knowledge access and use. Managing this stock of Intellectual capital (q.v.) in an organisation as it flows and grows is the domain of knowledge management. The way that stocks of intellectual capital change and evolve over time is then dependent on knowledge management strategies in knowledge creation, access and use.
British Standards Institution Knowledge Management Vocabulary
Knowledge Management Roadmap Glossary
Knowledge management seeks to increase organizational capability to use knowledge as a source of competitive advantage. The field has risen to prominence along with the “knowledge worker,” who is someone who does work which involves knowledge which is socially complex, causally ambiguous, and tacit. Relevant theories include social capital theory and the resource-based view of the firm. Practitioner approaches to knowledge management emphasize ways of creating, diffusing, using, and evaluating knowledge.
Blackwell Reference Online
Knowledge Management consists of all the activities required to develop, maintain, and evolve the environment described above, and support its interaction with people.
Knowledge Management: An Indirect Definition
Knowledge Management (KM) is the process through which information is generated and shared with ITS staff when they respond to and resolve incidents.
University of Michigan Information and Technology Services
Enterprise knowledge management (EKM) is a fairly broad term in IT that refers to any solutions or systems that deal with organizing data into structures that build knowledge within a business.
Knowledge Management(KM) refers to practices used by organizations to find, create, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning across the organization.
An umbrella term for making more efficient use of the human knowledge that exists within an organization. Knowledge management is the 21st century equivalent of information management. It is essentially an industry trying to distinguish itself with specialized groupware and business intelligence (BI) products that offer a wide range of solutions.
The management of information resources, services, systems and technologies using various technologies and tools through activities such as information acquisition/creation, information retrieval and storage, data mining, classification and cataloguing, and information use in different information handling institutions or centers such as libraries, archives and museums.
O.B. Onyancha & D.N. Ocholla
Conceptualising ‘knowledge management’
The definition of knowledge management is the process used by organizations to get, show and put to work information within the organization.
The process of creating, institutionalizing, and distributing knowledge among people for the purpose of improving and organizing business processes and practices.
WHO uses the term [knowledge management] to describe how the secretariat uses technology to enable people to create, capture, store, retrieve, use and share knowledge.
A trans-disciplinary approach to improving organisational outcomes and learning through maximising the use of knowledge. It involves the design, implementation and review of social and technological activities and processes to improve the creating, sharing and applying or using of knowledge. Knowledge management is concerned with innovation and sharing behaviours, managing complexity and ambiguity through knowledge networks and connections, exploring smart processes and deploying people-centric technologies. (AS 5037-2005 Definition 1.3.7)
1. use of organization’s knowledge for competitive advantage
2. the coordination and exploitation of an organization’s knowledge resources, in order to create benefit and competitive advantage
Knowledge Management is a term applied to any initiative involving people, processes and technology that leverages the knowledge within an organisation to achieve business results. KM practice requires vision and organisational communities aided by leadership.
Knowledge management is the process of efficiently organising, analysing, retrieving, using and – in some cases – monetising knowledge
Knowledge management is the practice of identifying, creating, communicating, socializing, measuring and improving knowledge to support strategic objectives.
[Knowledge management is] a method to simplify and improve the process of creating, sharing, distributing, capturing, and understanding knowledge in a company.
Strategic Knowledge Management Technology
Knowledge management, loosely defined, is a disciplined, holistic approach to using expertise effectively for competitive advantage. At Boeing, knowledge management is made up of a comprehensive system of processes, tools, methods and techniques that enable employees to capture and share information effectively.
Debby Arkell (Boeing)
Knowledge Management: Get our heads into it
The objective of IT Knowledge Management is to create, maintain and make available concise and actionable information to users and IT support groups in order to resolve service disruptions quickly and respond to customer queries satisfactorily.
IT Knowledge Management – Spreading the Word!
Knowledge Management: The process responsible for sharing perspectives, ideas, experience and information, and for ensuring that these are available in the right place and at the right time. The knowledge management process enables informed decisions, and improves efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.
Axelos Common Glossary (PDF)
Knowledge Management (KM): Planned and ongoing management of activities and processes for leveraging knowledge to enhance competitiveness through better use and creation of individual and collective knowledge resources
European Committee for Standardization
European Guide to good Practice in Knowledge Management (PDF)
Knowledge management is the way organizations create, capture, enhance, and reuse knowledge to achieve organizational objectives.
Asian Development Bank
Knowledge Management in the ADB (PDF)
Knowledge management is the conversion of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge and sharing it within the organization.
Knowledge management is the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets.
Filemon A. Uriarte, Jr
Introduction to Knowledge Management (PDF)
Knowledge Management is the development and distribution of knowledge across an organization.
Social knowledge management can be defined as applying social media in the knowledge management context to identify, share, document, transfer, develop, use or evaluate knowledge.
Wikipedia: Social Knowledge Management
[KM is] an integrated systematic approach which, when applied to an organization, enables the optimal use of timely, accurate and relevant information; it also facilitates knowledge discovery and innovation, fosters the development of a learning organization and enhances understanding by integrating all sources of information, as well as individual and collective knowledge and experience
Canadian Department of National Defence
Mobilizing Knowledge: Status of KM in Defence
Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of an organization’s information assets. These assets include structured databases, textual information such as policy and procedure documents, and most importantly, the tacit knowledge and expertise resident in the heads of individual employees.
Development Cooperation Handbook
What is Knowledge management?
Knowledge Management is therefore a 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 & Jack Grayson
If Only We Knew What We Know
[KM is] a systematic effort to enable information and knowledge to grow, flow, and create value.
Carla O’Dell & Cindy Hubert
The New Edge in Knowledge
Knowledge management is a process that must take account of the mechanisms and structures needed to handle knowledge while, at the same time, paying regard to the processes and players influencing the knowledge one is seeking to manage.
Peter Holdt Christensen
Knowledge Management: Perspectives and Pitfalls
The facilitation and support of processes for creating, sustaining, sharing, and renewing of organizational knowledge in order to generate economic wealth, create value, or improve performance.
The Future of Knowledge
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of enabling knowledge flow to enhance shared understanding, learning, and decision making
FM 6-01.1 Knowledge Management Operations (PDF)
The process of knowledge management begins with the identification and classification of the types of the knowledge which currently exist in the organization followed by the understanding of where and how the knowledge exists
The purpose of knowledge management in law firms (or corporate/government law departments) ─ aligned with the firm’s specific operational and strategic goals ─ is to:
- provide support for faster, more effective legal services to clients (internal and external), thereby increasing profit margins for the firm at the same time as attracting and retaining clients
- promote legal information literacy to make the work lives of lawyers and other firm members more productive, thereby indirectly nurturing employee retention and knowledge sharing
- establish best practices and standards for legal services, thereby reducing the risk of errors and malpractice.
The 7 Faces of Legal Knowledge Management (PDF)
The systematic process of finding, selecting, organizing, distilling and presenting information in a way that improves an employee’s comprehension in a specific area of interest.
Knowledge management – glossary
Knowledge management is an integrated, systematic process for identifying, collecting, storing, retrieving, and transforming Information and Knowledge assets into Knowledge that is readily accessible in order to improve the performance of the organization.
Glossary of terms used in competitive intelligence and knowledge management (PDF)
Knowledge management is a set of principles, tools and practices that enable people to create knowledge, and to share, translate and apply what they know to create value and improve effectiveness.
World Health Organization
WHO knowledge management glossary (PDF)
Knowledge Management is:
- Discipline that seeks to improve the performance of individuals and organizations by maintaining and leveraging present and future value of knowledge assets, encompassing both human and automated activities.
- Process an organization uses to optimize its intellectual capital to achieve organizational objectives.
Federal Knowledge Management Working Group
Knowledge Management Glossary (PDF)
Systematic approaches to help information and knowledge emerge and flow to the right people, at the right time, in the right context, in the right amount and at the right cost so they can act more efficiently and effectively
Reid G. Smith
Knowledge Management Glossary
Knowledge Management (KM)— A systematic process of finding, selecting, organizing, distilling and presenting information which involves the design, review and implementation of both social and technological processes to improve the application of knowledge.
Bureau of Indian Standards
Indian Standard Knowledge Management — Glossary of Terms (PDF)
Knowledge management is explicit and systematic management of processes enabling vital individual and collective knowledge resources to be identified, created, stored, shared, and used for benefit. Its practical expression is the fusion of information management and organizational learning.
Asian Development Bank
Glossary of Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management (KM) is the systematic management of processes enabling vital individual and collective knowledge resources to be identified, created, stored, shared, and used for the benefit of the actors involved.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Glossary: Knowledge Management and Sharing
Knowledge management is the leveraging of collective wisdom to increase responsiveness and innovation.
The Language of Knowledge
Knowledge Management is
- the identification and analysis of available and required knowledge assets
- knowledge asset related processes
- the subsequent planning and control of actions to develop both the assets and the processes
Knowledge management (KM) may refer to the ways organizations gather, manage, and use the knowledge or business intelligence that they acquire. The term also specifies an approach to improving organizational outcomes and organizational learning by introducing a range of specific processes and practices for identifying and capturing knowledge, know-how, expertise and other intellectual capital, and for making such knowledge assets available for transfer and reuse across the organization
Project Management Software Glossary
The term knowledge management describes the generation, storage, control and provision of knowledge within a company.
bitfarm Informationssysteme GmbH
Glossary: Knowledge Management
The professional discipline that involves working with, in or on any aspect of planning, delivering, operating or supporting for one or more Knowledge Items or any and all solutions put in place to deal with such items.
The International Foundation for Information Technology
IF4IT Glossary / Dictionary of IT Terms and Phrases
Knowledge management is the practice of ensuring insights, results and learning within an organization is captured and made available for staff to find, use, update, adopt and integrate into company processes. Knowledge management often aligned with training and learning, as well as innovation and research initiatives.
Elcom Technology Inc. (Australia)
Content Management Glossary: Knowledge Management
Knowledge management is a process whereby an enterprise methodically gathers, organizes, analyzes and shares knowledge relevant to its business environment and operating disciplines.
Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd (Australia)
Glossary: Knowledge Management
Knowledge management (KM) is generally defined as a set of new organizational practices with wide relevance in the knowledge economy. Knowledge management deals with any intentional set of practices and processes designed to optimize the use of knowledge, in other words, to increase allocative efficiency in the area of knowledge production, distribution and use.
Asian Productivity Organization
Knowledge Management for the Public Sector (PDF)
Knowledge Management: The administration and oversight of an organization’s intellectual capital by managing information and its use in order to maximize its value.
Society of American Archivists
Glossary: Knowledge Management
Knowledge management: The process of capturing, organizing, and storing information and experiences of workers and groups within an organization and making it available to others. By collecting those artifacts in a central or distributed electronic environment (often in a database called a knowledge base), KM aims to help a company gain competitive advantage.
Imperial College London
An E-Learning Glossary: Knowledge Management
KM is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identify, manage, share and leverage an organization’s knowledge and information assets through policies, organizational structures, procedures, applications and technologies. Knowledge needs to be shared; employees need to be ready, willing and able to share it and the organization needs a culture that promotes knowledge-sharing in a climate of trust and openness.
International Public Management Association for Human Resources
HR Management Glossary: Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline of management supposedly dedicated to ensuring that people in an organisation have timely access to the information and expertise they need to do their job. In reality, KM is a discipline full of semi-literate XXXXs who like to use big words.