Knowledge Management: The Historical Perspective

The concept of knowledge management is not in any way new. As humans, we were quick to learn that experience was the best teacher. Rather than creating the same experience at every iteration of the knowledge cycle; a better approach would be to parse and store previous experiences for later use. The earliest attempts to catalog experience were rudimentary and, as is true today, dependent on the existing mechanisms and tools for cataloging. Before man as a species could write, knowledge was captured as sounds and mnemonics crafted into rhythms stored in the ‘mind’ and passed from generation to generation.

Once writing became established with the invention of phonetic alphabets around 700BC, there was a switch to text-based knowledge retention and propagation. Today we’ve piggy-backed information technology to foster a paradigm shift in how knowledge is stored and curated.

Through time, as knowledge and knowledge management systems evolve, the core mandate hasn’t changed. The goal of humanity and, in this context, forward-thinking businesses is to manage knowledge in a way that limits wastage, improves efficiency, and guarantees measurable returns. Achieving these goals is a function of effectively managing knowledge through a process that defines a precise mechanism for knowledge creation and capture, knowledge auditing and structuring, and knowledge storing and sharing.  The good news is while this was particularly tedious in the past due to the limitations of knowledge management systems of the old, today’s innovative and upwardly scalable technologies usher us into a new era of knowledge management – one where the possibilities, as well as the benefits, are practically limitless.

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