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The laws of knowledge management

Knowledge sharing is becoming the central driver of the 21st century economy. Among the many companies which now recognize their stock of human capital as the major asset to business success, access to knowledge and just-in-time learning are more important than ever before. The continuous changes and innovations in information technology and telecommunications will make knowledge even more accessible.

As the unit costs of computing, communications and transactions decline towards zero, all economic sectors are going through major and rapid transformations. Economic success in this fast pace environment requires considerable agility and adaptability. Those countries, sectors, and organizations that can adapt will flourish in the 21st century.

Over the last five-to-six years, companies have increasingly been using new organizational models to capture and spread new ideas and know-how.

Communities of practice and networks have emerged to complement existing hierarchical structures. As a consequence they have radically galvanized knowledge sharing, learning and innovation.

As experience was acquired of implementing knowledge sharing in many different organizations in different countries and different cultures in the public and private sector, the initial impression was one of diversity of terminology, concepts and approaches, along with the differences in context in which knowledge sharing was being applied.

More recently, however, as the richness of the knowledge sharing experience has been digested, it has become clearer that certain features of the knowledge sharing experience are common across most, if not all, organizations that attempt to implement an organization-wide program. If the universality of these features is confirmed by further study, these features might eventually attain the status of the “laws” of knowledge management:

  • knowledge is key to business survival
  • communities are the heart and soul of knowledge sharing
  • virtual communities need physical interaction
  • passion drives communities of practice
  • knowledge sharing has an inside-out and an outside-in dimension
  • storytelling ignites knowledge sharing
  • corollaries of the laws of knowledge management

  • Co-authors: Michel Pommier, Lesley Shneier, Stephen Denning

    Further references

    Stephen Denning, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. Boston, London, Butterworth Heinemann, October 2000.

    Stephen Denning: The Leader's Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass, 2005) chapter 8.

    Stephen Denning: The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative (Jossey-Bass, October 2007)

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