Kimiz Dalkir at McGill once told me she collected definitions for Knowledge Management. At the time she published her excellent book (Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice) she had collected and catalouged over a hundred definitions. When we spoke, I believe she had over 180; most of which were different. In part, this demonstrates the nascent nature of the field of KM. So I give her definition great weight, although it can be debated. She defines KM as:
The deliberate and systematic coordination of an organizationÃ¢Â€Â™s people, technology, processes, and organizational structure in order to add value through reuse and innovation. This value is achieved through the feeding of valuable lessons learned and best practices into corporate memory in order to foster continued organizational learning.
The definition I prefer, however, is shorter and to the point – and partly courtesy of Bryan Davis. When asked “what is KM?” I usually respond “knowledge management is about making optimal use of an organization, group or individual’s knowledge assets“. While this is a simple definition, I like the notion of optimization (or as the Comprehensive Auditing Foundation frames it — this is about the three “E’s”: efficiency; economy; effectiveness). I also like the concept of “knowledge assets” which at it’s broadest includes people (human capital), the stuff that stays behind when everyone leaves on the elevator at the end of the day – things like software, hardware, databases, and intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks) (structural capital), and relationships (relationship/social capital).
Feel free to use this definition anytime.