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From Knowledge to Competence Management – Part I


This will be the start of a series of articles dealing with the transition of knowledge management to competence networking. I published this first part some time ago on another blog of mine and have revised it for republication here. Planned topics are the nature of knowledge, classical knowledge management, the idea of competence management, social capital, open innovation and which current developments in technology are able to support the realization of a competence network site.

The nature of knowledge

Most of the following ideas can be found in Managing Flow: A Process Theory of the Knowledge-Based Firm by I. Nonaka et al. We will use it only as a short introduction to advance quickly to the more practical topics.

First we have to make a distinction between knowledge and information. The german translation “Wissen” mixes the meaning of the two terms a bit so I would like to explain the probably obvious: information are facts, which can be collected, written down and transmitted. Knowledge can be divided in explicit knowledge which can be written down and transmitted and implicit or tacid knowledge, which can be described as “knowing how to do something”. Tacid knowledge is not readily transferable from one person to another.

Explicit knowledge seems to be strongly related to information but knowledge is subjective while information is not. Knowledge is an attribute acquired by a human being and therefore according to cognitive science filtered by personal views and experiences. A different person could come to different results when put into the same situation.

This leads directly to the next feature: knowledge is process-related which means that it is acquired in a process of interaction between one or more human beings and its or their environment. Different processes of acquisition may result in different outcome.

The process of knowledge acquisition normally ends with the subject identifying an acceptable outcome. What one views as acceptable has to obey our rules of aesthetics. So acceptable knowledge normally means aesthetic knowledge.

Knowledge is an extensive value which means its value (for a company) depends on the number of people possessing the knowledge while its exact value is uncertain since its subjective.

Its non-physical since it’s not used up when consumed. That also means that its transfer or publication can not be undone – just like information. This aspect will be of some importance when talking about open innovation later on.


All this means that knowledge can only be acquired in practice. Its created in the process of human beings interacting with each other and their environment. It’s not static, it’s completely dynamic. Storing it is like cutting a twig from a tree.

The next posting will deal with classical knowledge management and the relation of firms to knowledge, also known as the the knowledge-based view of the firm. Stay curious and leave a comment!

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