A revolution in the sharing of knowledge…

Transforming e-Knowledge  
TABLE OF CONTENTS     Paths to the e-Knowledge Future
© SCUP 2003
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The e-Knowledge Imperative (continued)


Chapter 3

Paths to the
e-Knowledge Future

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The Fusion of Knowledge Management and Learning

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 organization’s 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 costs;
  • 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 learning; and
  • 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 enterprises:

  • 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.



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