Does your company have a documented approach for capturing, organizing, and sharing both institutional and employee-based knowledge? In many organizations, knowledge management is still an afterthought, with different departments relying on different solutions–until those solutions stop working for them.
But as workforces become increasingly decentralized and organizations struggle to maintain or improve efficiency, more and more businesses are realizing the importance of having a clear company-wide approach to knowledge management.
But how do you improve knowledge management on a company-wide level? There’s no single correct solution, but one great place to start is identifying the knowledge management methodologies that will best serve your business.
Let’s take a look at several modern knowledge management methodologies and how to choose an approach that will be successful for your business.
What Is Knowledge Management?
Before we dive into some of the different knowledge management methodologies, let’s take a step back and define knowledge management.
At its most basic level, knowledge management is the practice of documenting, organizing, and sharing knowledge and information. In businesses, knowledge management helps centralize both institutional and individual knowledge and connect it to the people who need it to do their jobs. Organizations with highly successful knowledge management programs enable employees to efficiently find and share knowledge in a wide range of formats, ultimately helping people do their best work and turning the company’s collective knowledge into a strategic advantage.
6 Different Types of Knowledge Management Methodologies
As you think about implementing or improving your organization’s knowledge management program, keep in mind that there’s no one right methodology–and you can combine multiple methodologies to capture and share knowledge in different formats. What’s most important is figuring out which approaches are most effective for your business–and which make it as easy as possible for people to document, share, and find knowledge.
Below, we’ll look at six different types of knowledge management methodologies. Consider using these as a jumping-off point and adapting them as needed to your own organization.
Knowledge mapping is a useful exercise for visually showing what knowledge exists within your organization and how it flows between different groups.
Knowledge maps can serve as visual directories that tell people what knowledge exists in different areas of the company at a high level. You can use knowledge maps to inventory the knowledge assets that live within different teams or repositories across your company, which may be especially helpful if you’re planning to migrate assets from different sources to one central location.
Knowledge harvesting is a method for capturing and transferring the knowledge employees have gained from experience. It involves gathering information and insights from subject matter experts, typically through structured interviews, and recording and sharing that knowledge so that the rest of the organization benefits from it.
In many organizations, knowledge harvesting most commonly takes place when an employee is preparing to leave the company. However, more mature knowledge-centric businesses are increasingly recognizing the value of conducting knowledge harvesting exercises proactively. These companies may harvest knowledge on an ongoing basis using approaches like building an internal Q&A database or setting aside time for subject matter experts to record video interviews or training sessions.
Taxonomy design gives people multiple paths to find knowledge assets based on specific criteria. Think about the experience of shopping for clothes online and filtering your results by product type, price range, and color: these are all taxonomies that will help you narrow down the results that matter most to you.
If your knowledge management platform allows you to configure your own categories or filters, you can design categories that are relevant to your business and the ways people work. For example, you might create categories for different departments, regions, or product lines so people can search for content and then quickly drill down using the criteria they care about.
Sensemaking is a type of collaborative session where a group of people come together to improve their shared understanding of a topic or problem. It allows people to bring together their different perspectives and areas of expertise so that everyone can benefit from and build on their shared knowledge.
Bridget Gilbert, Director of Market Research at Gojo (and a Bloomfire customer), describes how her team uses sensemaking sessions: “We share reports in advance, and then bring stakeholders together into an interactive session to discuss implications and action items from the research. A typical session includes time for Q&A, breakout groups or individual thought exercises to engage with the insights, and convergence on key takeaways and actionable next steps.”
Pro tip: if you’re hosting sensemaking sessions, make sure you record them and upload the recordings to your knowledge management platform so that people who couldn’t attend live can still benefit.
How many times do subject matter experts (SMEs) in your organization end up answering the same questions for different people? If the answer is “too many,” then developing a Q&A documentation process can help.
If you use a knowledge management platform like Bloomfire with a built-in Q&A tool, then team members can publish questions to the platform and crowdsource answers from SMEs. The content of the questions and answers becomes searchable, so the next time someone else has the same question, they can find the answer in the platform rather than having to track down an SME. This also helps your organization organically grow its collection of documented expertise over time.
Content Feed Creation
Content feed creation is a method of curating and grouping content in ways that make it easy for users to consume the information that’s most relevant to them. It provides a personalized experience similar to what people are accustomed to with a lot of commercial media products (think of the highly specific feeds on your Netflix account or product recommendation lists on Amazon). It also helps reduce information overload, improve content engagement, and connect people to the information they need faster.
If you use a platform like Bloomfire that allows you to configure content feeds based on specific criteria, you can set up feeds to meet the needs of different groups of people or situations. For example, you might create an Onboarding feed that pulls in all relevant materials for new hires, or you might create a Product News feed that pulls in all updates shared by members of your product team.
How to Implement New Knowledge Management Methodologies in Your Organization
No matter what approach you take to knowledge management, it’s important to come up with a plan to implement and evaluate the success of your methodologies. Here are six essential steps:
- Assess your organization’s current knowledge management needs. You’ll want to choose the methodologies that best address your top knowledge management priorities. For example, if you’re kicking off an initiative to centralize content that currently lives in different departments, you might start with knowledge mapping. If you’re anticipating that a lot of your most tenured employees will retire in the next few years, you might prioritize knowledge harvesting to preserve their expertise.
- Develop a plan to implement and monitor the chosen methodologies. Document your plan and define clear ownership of all action items so the initiative doesn’t fizzle out. Make sure you have ways to monitor your methodologies (e.g., employee surveys or content engagement metrics in your knowledge management platform).
- Establish objectives and key results (OKRs). Establish clear objectives for your initiative and determine how you will measure success. For example, if you’re using Q&A documentation, you might have a goal around maintaining a certain percentage of questions with approved answers in your knowledge management platform.
- Train employees on new processes. Any methodology you choose will likely require employees to get used to new processes for knowledge documentation or sharing. Make sure you’re communicating expectations for these new processes clearly and providing training so employees can be successful.
- Evaluate and modify existing processes as needed. Continue tracking your OKRs to determine the success of your chosen methodologies. If you’re falling short of your goals, consider where you can make incremental changes.
Remember, knowledge management is an ongoing process, and there’s no one right or wrong methodology. You may experiment with different methodologies over time or develop your own processes to fit your business. What matters most is that you have repeatable, sustainable processes for capturing, finding, and sharing your company’s collective knowledge.