A new research study shows why you have to get learning and knowledge management aligned in your organisation.
Learning and unlearning
Collective knowledge and the ability to learn and unlearn in an organisation are critical assets in improving organisational performance, increasing profitability, and ultimately creating and maintaining a competitive advantage.
However, uncertainty over how exactly learning and knowledge management affects organisational performance creates a problem. A paper just published in the Journal of Industrial Management & Data Systems has found that this uncertainty creates a situation where leaders in both the public and private sectors don’t understand how best to allocate resources to capitalise and develop knowledge management processes. The issue is that for continued support and investment, knowledge management initiatives must demonstrate clear and direct value to stakeholders.
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Previous research has shown quite clearly that organizational learning culture, a specific type of organizational culture that integrates organizational learning, is a critical success factor in the success of knowledge management.
The connections between organisational learning cultures and the use of knowledge management systems
This paper looks at the connections between organisational learning cultures and the use of knowledge management systems.
Whether focusing on cost cutting and efficiencies or moving product development in the most effective way through a supply chain, the knowledge behind these movements and transformations are key to the success of the operations. The management of this knowledge in all organizations is a key asset to improving these processes and gaining or developing a competitive advantage.
Alongside its resources and products, the capabilities and competencies an organization maintains, retains and develops are critical to its success. The researchers from Auburn University in the US and the US Air Force Institute of Technology found that overall there are four sets of competencies which are required for effective knowledge management. The researchers make an interesting point in that they view competencies as repeatable and non random ability to render competitive output. This gives competencies a wholly strategic focus.
The 3 Major issues for knowledge based competencies
The paper highlights three major issue surrounding the knowledge based competencies organisations need to develop:
1. Managerial competencies. These are the general leadership and management competencies most organizations prize. However, they also need to include the competencies of leadership and management of learning and knowledge management. An area not often dealt with in organizational L&D programmes.
2. Organisational learning and knowledge management issues at a strategic level. This includes information flows and feedback mechanisms.
3. The ability of the employees to use and contribute to the learning / knowledge management systems of the organisation.
These, according to the authors of the paper, “include all assets, knowledge, skills, and capabilities embedded in the organisation’s structure, technology, processes, and interpersonal relationships. These organisational competencies have the potential to yield sustained competitive advantage.”
An organization’s competitive advantage is increasingly being recognised as direct product of their ability to learn, unlearn and develop and manage knowledge in sub-optimal and rapidly changing market conditions.
As the authors of the paper point out, “The importance of knowledge management has been equated to the importance of natural resources in previous generations wherein strategies that companies once devoted to optimizing capital and labor are now being applied to maximize the productivity of knowledge resources.”
Where management should know how to lead an organization, they cannot know the whole business in all its intricacies to the very bottom. This is why learning should be promoted throughout the organization. The paper stats, “The results provide evidence that organizations enhance performance when they foster and promote learning.”
The paper concludes, “This research showed that knowledge management and learning culture are capabilities that can evoke organizational performance and play a positive role in the development of human capital.”
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