We begin with a definition of knowledge. In simple
terms, knowledge is information and insight understood in a particular
context. Its dynamic and contextual nature has led Peter Drucker,
the creator of the term knowledge worker, to assert
that the nature of knowledge is that it makes itself obsolete
(Ruggles and Holtshouse, 1999). Because the combination of knowledge
and its context are continuously changing, common sense suggests
it must be linked with processes of perpetual learning.
The context of knowledge is especially critical in
todays global marketplace. Individuals and organizations must
deal with multiple contextual meanings to an extent that would have
seemed obsessive only ten years ago. Our approach to knowledge and
learning draws from contexts and settings from across the globe.
For example, consider the Chinese context where the term guanxi
focuses on the importance of relationships or networks between people
rather than organizations. Knowledge management and learning in
such a setting expresses different dynamics than mainstream Western
In this book, we use a diversity of lenses through
which to understand the facets of knowledge and its interaction
with learning. The first lens is the simple value chain that represents
the relationships between data, information, and knowledge. Other
lenses make use of the relationships between knowledge and strategy,
organizational change, networks, and economics (including supply
chains and demand chains for knowledge).
Networked information and communications technology
(ICT) has put the e in e-knowledge.
But e-knowledge involves much more than merely digitizing
and passing around everything we know using present concepts, structures,
and protocols. As it develops, e-knowledge is creating new standards,
structures, processes, best practices, business models, and strategies
for creating and exchanging data, information, and knowledge.
Books, manuals, process descriptions, and detailed
operating procedures have long served as repositories of what organizations
know and what they do. In addition, the associated procedures and
insights historically have been shared with others through education,
training, and apprenticeship programs, both formal and informal.
Digitization of resources and sharing through computer
and telecommunications networks are making a wide range of repositories
of potential knowledge available and accessible in ways never before
Every day brings technical advances that make it easier
to store, transmit, and share many kinds of information in digital
form and at high speed. It becomes increasingly feasible to routinely
capture ones daily experiences and their contexts for later
analysis and perhaps incorporation in organizational processes.
In principle, most, if not all, of that information could be a source
of knowledge for others.