Knowledge transfer and knowledge management within a business or organization go hand-in-hand. It’s impossible or inefficient to implement one and not the other. By transferring knowledge from person to person effectively, a company can better utilize new information to improve the overall performance of the business.
What is Knowledge Transfer?
The simplest definition of knowledge transfer and management is the efficient process of moving information throughout a business or organization. The overall goal is to properly collect, share and distribute knowledge by utilizing personal interactions and emerging technologies. However, proper management should not be confused with simple communication; it is far more than that. The most valuable information to a company resides in several places and can be hard to explain. Acquiring, archiving and distributing this knowledge so that it reaches the most people and has the greatest effect is the true challenge.
Organizational theory classifies knowledge transfer by defining two different types of information: Tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is created and held within a highly skilled and experienced individual. It is difficult to express and requires the use of mentoring or personal interactions to effectively distribute. Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, is information that can be easily transferred through the use of basic communication technology such as documents, emails and memos.
How is Knowledge Transferred?
Organizational theory defines four basic modes of transferring knowledge from person to person:
1. Socialization – This is the most common method of knowledge transfer. The most important aspect of this means of distribution is proper communication between an experienced employee and the employee learning the information. A typical method is to create a shared or understandable experience that the recipient can relate to.
2. Externalization – Articulating information from the mind into words or ideas can be difficult. This form of transfer is best completed through the use of analogies and metaphors.
3. Combination – As the name suggests, this is the process of acquiring and combining different knowledge into a codified system that, ultimately, leads to the creation of new, usable information.
4. Internalization – Another way to name this transfer method is “on-the-job training” or “learning-by-doing”. The most efficient method of internalization is the use of oral presentations or verbal diagrams.
Technology and Knowledge Transfer
Businesses are beginning to see the importance of accumulating, distributing and keeping knowledge within their organization. Companies that want to remain competitive within their industry must utilize technology to facilitate this goal. Tacit knowledge can leak from an organization like water through fingers, so it is important to utilize technology to retain this difficult to acquire information. Repositories and refineries of knowledge allow a company to express and compile tacit and explicit information so that it can be distributed among employees. Information technology such as video conferencing, social media and presentation software represents the vehicles businesses use to pass this knowledge on to others within the organization.
A company that has figured out how to acquire, retain and distribute knowledge efficiently and with minimal “leakage” will have an advantage over competitors who do not practice solid transfer and management techniques. Utilizing personal interactions and information technology will ensure that information is used efficiently.