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Knowledge management – preparing for future challenges

Pooling knowledge, coordinating it, and identifying hidden potential – managing employees' knowledge is a major challenge for organisations. The Library Am Guisanplatz takes a closer look.

01.05.2019 | Manuel Bigler, Library Am Guisanplatz

An older employee teaching his younger colleague how to use a 3D printer. Source: iStock.
Knowledge transfer in action: an older employee teaching his younger colleague how to use a 3D printer. Source: iStock.

Knowledge is the only thing that grows when it is shared." This popular quote about the paradox of knowledge is often attributed to author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916). The question of how knowledge in an organisation can be preserved or even increased is the subject of knowledge management.

An individual employee's knowledge is made up of an explicit and an implicit part. The former consists of factual knowledge acquired, for example, in training courses or by reading textbooks. The latter consists of professional experience – skills and knowledge gained through practice.

Experience should be made explicit and documented

An organisation's collective knowledge is made up of the combined knowledge of all of its employees. Scientific estimates say that around 80% of this knowledge is implicit. Only the remaining 20% is explicit, factual knowledge – which is more easily passed on to other employees, as its informational character makes it relatively simple to teach.

Imparting implicit knowledge, on the other hand, poses more of a challenge. Whereas in the past, many work processes could be taught fairly easily through demonstration, today employees find it far more difficult to put into words and document their implicit professional experience.

Differences between theory and practice

The federal government also recognises the importance of knowledge management and, in its personnel strategy report for 2016-2019, emphasises how vital experience and knowledge management are for preparing employees for future challenges. However, it does not address how, specifically, this knowledge transfer should happen in practice.

This issue is reflected in one of the conclusions reached in a scientific study commissioned by the Swiss Managers Organisation SKO. It found that while 80% of managers in German-speaking regions recognise that experience is a key factor for success, only a quarter of these managers support knowledge transfer without restriction.

Recommendations for further reading:

(BiG) Collection

Other links:

Studie der Fachhochschulen St. Gallen, Burgenland und der Rheinischen Fachhochschule in Köln zum Wert der Erfahrung in Unternehmen (2016)

Artikel zum Thema "Wissensmanagement" aus Gablers Wirtschaftslexikon

Überblick verschiedener Methoden und Literatur zum Wissenstransfer impliziten Wissens aus der Zeitschrift Information Research (2017)

Leitfaden für Wissensmanagement des Europäischen Komitees für Normung (CEN) (2004)

Artikel zu Implementierungsmöglichkeiten von Wissensmanagement in Organisationen anlässlich eines Workshops der Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (2009)

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