No one doubts that better management of knowledge within the firm will lead to improved innovation and competitive advantage. Everyone agrees on the goal -- better utilization of internal and external knowledge. It is the approach to this goal that is hotly debated. Many vendors and consultants push a technology-driven approach. "Buy our state-of-art knowledge storage system and you will never again lose knowledge that is vital to the company!", they exclaim. Other consultants emphasize the soft-side of Knowledge Management. "Create a learning culture, that rewards sharing, and knowledge management will take care of itself!", they postulate. There are no silver bullets. Not from the technologists. Not from the culture prophets.
The effective utilization of knowledge and learning requires both culture and technology. Explicit information and data can be easily codified, written down, and stored in a data base. For this type of business information we have the necessary skills and more than adequate tools. Yet, simple data is frequently not where competitive advantage is found. An organization's real edge in the marketplace is often found in complex, context-sensitive, knowledge which is difficult, if not often impossible to codify and store in ones and zeroes. This core knowledge is found in individuals, communities of interest and their connections. An organization's data is found in its computer systems, but a company's intelligence is found in its biological and social systems. Computer networks must support the people networks in today's fluid and adaptive organizations -- not the other way around.