The Fusion of Knowledge Management and
ypically, knowledge management and learning have
been treated as distinct topics and practices, developing in different
parts of the enterprise. Further, knowledge management has flourished
in corporate and business enterprises and has been slow to develop
in learning enterprises. Leading-edge organizations are ending this
separation. Three elements are driving this fusion.
Development of Standards, Repositories, and
Marketplaces for e-Knowledge. The e-knowledge standards
movement has surfaced the need for the integration of learning and
knowledge management. After all, both require interoperable repositories
and marketplaces for e-knowledge if they are to be successful. Moreover,
standards developers have discovered albeit somewhat serendipitously
that integrating knowledge management and learning professionals
and practices has created a greater critical mass that has proven
helpful in gaining attention and support for standards efforts.
A key trigger for this taking place is the emerging comprehension
of the requirement for managing content and process
together. This is both a service to the learner and an enhancement
to organizational capability
Acquisition of Infrastructures, Processes and
Competencies. At some stage in their evolutionary development,
organizations practicing knowledge management and learning discover
the need to integrate infrastructures, processes, and capabilities
for each. This awakening is different for each organization. As
organizations proceed with the integration of infrastructure, they
progressively reinvent learning and knowledge management processes
and develop competencies in how to create, manage, update, and share
e-knowledge. Experience yields these insights in different ways.
Strategic, Enterprise-wide Learning Requires
Fusion. Confronted with the challenges of competition in
the global marketplace, organizational leadership comes to the realization
that strategic, enterprise-wide learning is critical to its competitive
advantage (Deloitte and Touche, 2001). And that strategic learning
can only be achieved when the organizations infrastructures,
processes, and practices for learning and knowledge management are
truly fused. For corporations, strategic learning means the ability
to translate organizational goals, performance objectives, and strategies
into personalized learning experiences that can be pushed to employees,
customers, suppliers, and partners at any time. It also means the
ability to use communities of practice to serve as essential learning
venues. For learning enterprises, for which learning is their primary
service, strategic learning translates into five abilities:
- fusion of knowledge management tools into its dominant learning
infrastructures to enrich learning experiences and manage their
- integration with the strategic learning systems of other organizations
so it can function as a learning provider;
- engaging management/ administration, faculty, and staff in learning
to advance the strategies and goals of the enterprise and to share
their knowledge and further develop their competencies;
- supporting vibrant variations of both structured and autonomic
- nurturing the development of communities of practice to shape
both the creation of knowledge and the nature of learning experiences.
Strategic, enterprise-wide learning will be the new gold standard
in the Knowledge Economy.
Fusion Is Not Inevitable
Desirable, closer merging of knowledge management
and learning is far from inevitable. Brandon Hall (2001) identifies
four obstacles to merging learning and knowledge management in business
- Organizational and functional barriers. Learning
and knowledge management professionals are separated, organizationally
and functionally. Training/ learning tends to be in Human Resources,
while knowledge management typically resides in a special place
in each organization, directly below the executive level.
- Complex and ambiguous concepts. Knowledge management,
in particular, is either unknown or misunderstood.
- Divergent communities of practice. While this
is changing, learning and knowledge management professionals attend
different professional meetings. They identify with different
communities of thought and practice.
- Divergent technologies. Knowledge management and
e-learning software represent two different industries with few
firms serving both markets.
To this list, a fifth barrier may be added: learning
enterprises such as colleges and universities have barely discovered
the principles and practices of knowledge management, let alone
integrated them with e-learning. This is a major deficiency that
leading-edge institutions are working to overcome.
New terminology is necessary to reflect
the fusion of the theory and practice of knowledge management and
e-learning and to leave behind the baggage of past usage carried
by both terms.