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Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice

 
A textbook that combines KM theory and practice.
7/25/2005

It's not often we will recommend a textbook to our busy business executive readers, but this new work on the theory and practice of knowledge management (KM) is one where we will make an exception.

The KM field has grown as well as divided over the last twenty years, and this book presents a good overview of its theoretical underpinnings, how KM has evolved in practice, and case studies of KM in action. A convincing case is presented, if such a case must still be made, as to why KM can be a good investment when tailored to the particular goals of a company. Simply put, "The creation and application of knowledge can be the engine of organizational performance and growth," says Dalkir.

The book begins with a look at the "knowledge management cycle," KM management models, and the difference in technique between tacit and explicit knowledge capture. Once you've captured knowledge in some way, the next challenge is to make it accessible to workers. The book cites an IDC study claiming that "an organization with 1,000 knowledge workers loses a minimum of $6 million per year in time spent just searching for information." Dalkir describes communities of practice and other social-based networks as effective vehicles for sharing knowledge.

The book also includes chapters on how to measure KM results, the ingredients needed in creating a KM team, and organizational challenges to implementing an effective program. (Most KM failures, of which there have been many, originate in organizational problems rather than in people or technological shortcomings, the author maintains.)

One reason we like this book for executives is that Dalkir gives effective summaries of key points that provide for an intelligent scan of the work if one doesn't have time to read the whole thing.

Dalkir teaches KM courses at McGill University and was previously with Fujitsu Consulting's Global Knowledge Management Practice.