The term "knowledge" is described as a familiarity or understanding of a subject, fact, or skill. It is an awareness or information that has been obtained by experience or study. Knowledge is intangible, hence rarely gets the proactive attention as it deserves, making it the most vulnerable resource for the organization. Too often, organizations only realize the loss of critical knowledge until one key member of the organization leaves or a process partner disassociates from the process. Knowledge needs to be managed in a systematic manner like any other asset and shall form an integral part of the organization’s management system.
“KNOWLEDGE IS LIKE A GARDEN, IF NOT CULTIVATED, IT CANNOT BE HARVESTED.” – AFRICAN PROVERB
Effective knowledge management enables an organization to make the best use of intellectual data and insights in applying innovation on its existing and potential products or services. The lead time to create new solutions or improve existing processes can also be significantly reduced. Providing instantaneous access of relevant concepts and information to all employees adds substantial value to the organizational development process. Organizations that systematically foster a knowledge management system are also prompt and accurate in responding to unforeseen and intractable situations across its operations, as the adequate pool of valuable expertise, data and information always serve as a toolbox for troubleshooting.
Management of an organization’s intellectual asset also gets an explicit mention in the last revision of ISO 9001 standard, the world's most recognized Quality Management System (QMS) standard. It explains organizational knowledge as the information that is used and shared to achieve the organization’s objectives. Internal sources of knowledge described by the standard are intellectual property, lessons learned from successes and failures, results of process improvements, etc. And, external sources can be knowledge gained from customers, suppliers, standards, academia, conferences, etc. Interestingly, the requirement to manage organizational knowledge is placed under the section of resource management where other key resources are also mentioned by the standard, such as people and infrastructure. This signifies that organizational knowledge needs to be recognized as one of the vital resources requiring systematic management and control.