Mittwoch, 23. März 2011

Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate

There is a new kid in the zoo: Knowledge Mobilization.
Not another word! Please, not another hype, if you try to sell the same old fish! Is there really a need for another term?
There is, but in order to see this, we need to take a short tour through the corporate knowledge zoo:

Knowledge Sharing (KS):
the good old pet, the act of individuals of externalizing and distributing knowledge, so that others can use it; the other – long neglected - side of the coin is Knowledge Demanding (something that is very well supported nowadays by Social Media).
Knowledge Management (KM): this animal needs some more attention, because as discussed in earlier posts (Lessons from failures , KM is dead) the idea of KM is often confused with its manifestation in time, context and culture, or even worse reduced to the IT tools supporting the idea. The idea however is very simple: knowledge is a company assets, KM is thus the management discipline that optimizes the use of this assets for the well-being of the company. The aim of KM is the corporate wealth, in other words, shareholder value. Although in more advanced considerations KM reaches beyond the corporate and includes customers, partners, suppliers, or even the whole industry, the aim nevertheless is the competitive advantage of the company. The mechanism is to create value for the company from knowledge. With the aim of the company, the mechanism also includes Knowledge Security, meaning knowledge leaking to others is avoided and counter-acted, if this is doing harm to the companies well-being and position.
If you limit the purpose of the corporate to increase shareholder value, there is nothing beyond Knowledge Management.

So why would you leash and pet Knowledge Mobilization? Or, in which cage to put Knowledge Mobilization in the first place?
According to Wikipedia it is a different species:

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): may be defined as putting available knowledge into active service to benefit society.

So instead of the corporate aim of KM, the aim of KMb is society. This explains also from the historical point of view the strong footprint of KMb in health and education. Knowledge Mobilization has been very much on the governemental and academic agenda, as both these entities’ aims is society. The mechanism by which this is done is mainly the externalization, exposure of knowledge (in particular research knowledge) towards the public. And as academic research is not always formulated in a language suited for a broader audience, it also needs a commoditization of knowledge.
But also the private sector / business – the corporate is represented in the model in the picture (Myers KM vs KMb).

Literature identifies their main application as internalizing. Put simple, they take the research knowledge and create value out of it (for the corporate and with the help of Adam Smith’s invisible hand for society).
That’s the shareholder view, in recent years however also economists have argued the stakeholder perspective, the Corporate Social Responsibility. In a global village global players take responsibility beyond profits, the most prominent example is sustainability, but child labour or anti-corruption can be named. In this context Knowledge Mobilization is a responsibility for the corporate.
So as a conclusion Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate and Knowledge Management are very different animals, living usually in different ecosystems and on different nutrition, if they match and meet, it should be considered the exemption, not the default. Thus Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate has its purpose and justification.

How this is realized, shall be shown in the next post.



  1. Danke Gerard! Thank you Gerard! I'm very pleased to see you making the distinction between Knowledge Management and Knowledge Mobilization.

    Great informative blog that helps contribute to our understanding and clarify definitions and terminology.

    Thank you also for including my KMb model in your blog. Much appreciated! I have also included a link to this blog in my recent blog

  2. @KMbeing:
    I have to thank you, as coming from the corporate side (Knowledge Management), it was the discussion and your posts that opened my thinking towards Knowledge Mobilization, stay tuned, there is more to come, this was only the preparation of the ground.


  3. other key distinctions between KM and KMb is openness and externalities.

    KMb drives an organizations knowledge to the outside. It is shared for collaboration between organizations. it is for the benefit of an organization other than one's own. My own organization can and will benefit from the collaboration but only if the partner organization(s) with whom I am collaborating also benefit. If a company shares it's information freely in order to benefit itself and its collaborators it is practicing KMb. One example of this is Procter & Gamble's Connect Develop where they open their available IP to collaborators.

    This drives the other distinction: openness.

    You can't have a true collaboration if you're holding all the cards. If you're keeping your knowledge internal you are managing it. If you are sharing your knowledge openly you are mobilizing it.

    In the public and community sectors we share knowledge openly. Social enterprises have also embraced this paradigm. While companies have to compete there is an emerging literature about collaborating to compete. Follow the knowledge flows in those collaborations and you'll see if you're managing or mobilizing your knowledge.

  4. @researchimpact
    Openess and externalities is a very interesting subject with regards to KM and KMb.
    As I see it, here both KM and KMb overlap. Recent considerations (very much also driven by the changes due to Social Media and Web2.0) have identified that KM is not limited to the internal, but shall / must go beyond the corporate borders, in order to create a win situation for the company, the company shall / must include and engage not only internal forces but also the customers, partners and suppliers into its Knowledge Management activities.
    On the other hand, what is the motivation for these customers, partners and suppliers to engage in the company's KM activities? Certainly not just because they are so good guys. So in order to make this work, indeed it is essential to create win-win situations. These win-win situations might be biliteral (or multi-literal), so yet still not completely open (e.g. a community only open for 2 companies) or it can be "omnilateral" completely open, e.g. blogs open for the public, then the win-win-win... situations extends to the society: Knowledge Mobilization.



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