Knowledge Management in the Age of Information Overload

The Evolution of Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management as a separate stream of business and as an organizational function and practice emerged with the advent of the Information Age with its reliance on knowledge as power.

Indeed, while the Industrial Era did have some connection to accumulating, preserving, and share knowledge, it was only with the advent of the Information Age that organizations and businesses felt the need to gather, store, and share knowledge within the organizational structure.

This was mainly due to the overarching need felt by organization s that realized that unless they have a body of knowledge and a repository or storehouse of relevant and pertinent information and knowledge could they gain an advantage over their competitors.

Indeed, in an era where the ability to innovate and be inventive as well as to derive business advantage from the possession and diligent sharing of information is the defining feature of business success, knowledge management evolved as a separate and distinct organizational function and as a sphere of business activity.

Information Overload and Knowledge Management

Having said that, it is not the case that accumulating knowledge just for the sake of acquisition leads to business success. Indeed, as the previous section outlined, the keywords or the key terms are to possess relevant and pertinent knowledge.

In other words, any organization can just log in to the internet and download all the information and content that applies to its sphere of business if possession of knowledge was the sole criterion for success.

Instead, as the key theme of this article, we present the insight or the observation that in times when we are drowning in information, the ability to recognize and sort useful and relevant knowledge is the key to success.

If we examine contemporary business landscape and the media sphere, we find that Google and other search engines, Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the available databases of journals and other items, provide us with unlimited information available at the click of a mouse or to be timelier, at the swipe of a Smartphone button.

Indeed, such oceans of information that are available are variously called Information Overload and Information Abundance that can easily drown us or make us adrift if we are not thorough enough to sort the Wheat from the Chaff and are not diligent enough to gather what is needed and to leave what is not.

Contemporary Knowledge Management (KM) Practices: Gatekeepers

Thus, Knowledge Management in the Age of Information Overload requires careful application of thought and hard work of winnowing the useful from the useless and the relevant from the dated and the pertinent from the cornucopia of information.

This has led to many organizations appointing Gatekeepers for their KM functions wherein these individuals are tasked with searching for the relevant information and allowing only that information that is useful to the organizations.

In other words, just as earlier eras had Librarians whose primary task was to organize knowledge and information, the task of the contemporary Gatekeepers is to let only that information and knowledge be allowed and stored as well as accumulated that is useful and relevant to their organizations.

The Difference between Information and Knowledge

We have been using the terms information and knowledge throughout this article. As any textbook on the Information Age would tell you, data is not fact and information is not knowledge unless they are processed and sorted into useful and converted into workable storehouses.

In other words, Information becomes Knowledge when it is processed and transformed into what is relevant and pertinent, and hence, in contemporary organizations, there are also purveyors and processors of information in the KM teams.

This means that any proper KM practice has to first filter the information which is relevant and then process and transform it into knowledge that is key to organizational success.

Contemporary Knowledge Management (KM) Practices: Gatekeepers, Processors, and Regulators

Apart from this, modern day KM practice is also defined by the ability to store and archive information and knowledge, in addition, to share such knowledge in a careful and calibrated manner.

Indeed, no organization can allow the Oceans of information into their internal networks accessed by all employees without first vetting such information.

In addition, KM teams also share knowledge on a need to know basis as well as according to organizational requirements wherein what is publicly available to all and what is protected and shared with due permission from the higher ups is the key.

Thus, we have the organizational Intranet and the Extranet which function according to the role requirements and other organizational imperatives.

Social Media and KM

No discussion on KM practices in the current times is complete without including the discussion on Social Media and their impact on KM. Indeed, with Facebook and Twitter, one runs the risk of trends such as Fake News, Wrong Information, and Excess Knowledge which means that not only do KM teams have Gatekeepers and Processors, they also have the responsibility to monitor and regulate access to social media.

Indeed, many organizations routinely prevent social media access during office hours just to ensure that there is some control over the information that is being allowed in and consumed.

Thus, at the moment, KM teams have to first guard the organization against opening up to the Information Overload, then Store and Process what is relevant, and lastly, monitor and regulate who is doing what.

While the last of the functions is usually left to Admin and the Support Teams, some organizations mandate that the KM teams must also keep looking for any wrong or fake data and information that can harm the prospects of organizations.

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Knowldege Management