Can Knowledge Be Managed?

Knowledge management (KM) constitutes whole bodies of work, research, methods, and theories that link people across jobs, projects, and/or industries together. However, there has been an ongoing debate about the existence and value of KM. Can knowledge really be managed? Is managing knowledge important? Some emerging perspectives in response to these questions are found below. Where do you side in the matter?

Knowledge Management: The Domain Is Nonsense

What do we understand about KM? There are individuals who believe “knowledge management” means “the management of knowledge.” If knowledge is intangible and hard to define, it cannot be controlled as an “object” or “thing.” Without control, there can be no management (Milton, 2012; Wilson, 2002). Instead of managing knowledge, perhaps the course of action is to develop knowledge. Prusak (2001) suggests that “you cannot manage knowledge like you cannot manage love, patriotism, or your children, but you can set up an environment where knowledge evolves.” Management implies a process that can be automated. But can you automate new knowledge? The KM concept should control both existing and new knowledge but it is difficult to manage new knowledge if it requires a different process.

Knowledge Management: A Successful Emerging Discipline

How can KM exist if knowledge is difficult to define? Some argue that knowledge does not need to be defined in order for KM to be successful.“You don’t need to define a thought in order to think, you don’t need to define music in order to sing, and you don’t need to define knowledge in order to do KM” (Milton, 2012). Researchers are delivering real value to organizations through extracting, teaching, reusing, sharing, and leveraging knowledge. According to Awad and Ghaziri (2004), there are four processes involved in KM: (1) capturing, (2) organizing, (3) refining, and (4) transferring of knowledge. Using these combined processes, practitioners and academics are able to identify, create, and enable the adoption of insights and experiences.

Knowledge management concepts have existed for years within companies all over the world. For example, at CPG, we have developed a Scenario Design Tool (SDT), a type of KM system that produces a series of processes and practices for a variety of training environments. To develop the SDT, we extracted knowledge from subject matter experts, uncovering how people think and reason in complex, time pressured, high stake situations, and captured those experiences through the application of the Cognitive Task Analysis method. There are a plethora of companies that are dedicated to KM efforts within their own organization as part of a business strategy. If the objectives of KM are to improve performance and share lessons learned which adds value to organizations, why not apply the domain?


Awad, E. M., & Ghaziri, H. M. (2004). Knowledge management. Upper Saddle River,
00000NJ:Prentice Hall.

Milton, N. (2012). Knoco stories: 3 cul-de-sac arguments in knowledge management. 
WordPress and Citizen Journal, 1-10.

Prusak, L. (2001). Where did Knowledge management come from? IBM Systems 
00000Journal, 4, 1002-1007.

Wilson, T.D. (2002). The nonsense of knowledge management. Information 
00000Research, 8(1), 144-154.


About the Author:


Cognitive Performance Group, LLC is a woman-owned small business with offices in Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Dr. Karol G. Ross, Jennifer K. Phillips, and William A. Ross. The three CPG Principals developed the concept for a company to support cognitive performance improvement in industry and government. (more...)

  1. avatar Jenni

    Very interesting topic, and interesting debate. One of the biggest challenges is how to represent knowledge in words or pictures that make sense to someone other than the originator of that knowledge.

  2. avatar Pete Gomez

    Knowledge management (KM) will continue to challenge our very existance. For example, in the military KM has evolved to many avenues of solutions, and our KM is constantly expanding to further understanding of the mind. Great paper!

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