August 12, 2012

Plagiarism is a deadly mistake!

A prominent Indian - American journalist and author "Fareed Zakaria" have been suspended from CNN and Time Magazine yesterday. The suspension took place after the well-known journalist wrote respectively a blog and a column in the two organisations for which he works for. Zakaria plagiarised from an essay of an US writer.

This scandal was followed after another New Yorker staff writer Jonah Lehrer, who resigned also. Lehrer, quit after admitting that he made up quotes from legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in his book "Imagine: How Creativity Works."

Zakaria admitted of his plagiarism and apologized as he said: "I made a terrible mistake, It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault" . Now, his career is on the knife-edge because of plagiarism.

It is no wonder that when the university penalise a student for plagiarising; the action is not merely for the sake of penality itself. It is rather a warning for all students that Plagiarism is one of the deadly sins in their future careers.

Regardless of the harshness of the panelty applied by the university because of student plagiarism, yet, it is by far and away less harshness than the real life world. I
t is a warning sign that the real world shows no mercy for such dishonest act and your whole career life might be ruined and will be marked ever with a black stain in your career history.


June 12, 2012

Communication and Knowledge Management

I think communication has a lot to do with facilitating and managing knowledge effectively within organisations. For instance, the distance between leaders who communicate in a top-down approach and their employees have a bad effect on sharing knowledge or developing employees over time, at the same time employees in this particular case don’t tend to share knowledge or propose ideas, and therefore this results in blocking the knowledge on both sides. But it’s not about that also, companies have to decide how their organisational chart will look like depending on their strategy and operations, and what the best-fit communication approach will suite them.


June 11, 2012

Strengthen your Bench Strength

Companies have always to think ahead of their future leaders, and keep a list of “Bench Strength”; potential candidates who could step into the shoes of their senior managers. However, it’s not about just preparing the list, because even if those potential candidates weren’t prepared enough they might fail in doing their future jobs. It’s more about training and transferring that business knowledge from senior management to their successors, transferring and capturing “the crème del la crème” knowledge of senior management. It’s about who, how, when and what sort of knowledge.

It’s also about motivating, engaging, retaining and developing employees, and hiring new employees to fill the positions of those potential candidates when they are promoted, whether from within or from outside the organisation. Sometimes brining new blood to the organisation to bring new ideas or new knowledge.

It’s about keeping the knowledge cycle going, and the recruiting –developing – retaining (RDR) cycle working and working and so forth, and this will lead to creating new knowledge by bringing new talented employees, sharing and retaining that knowledge.

Some studies shows that few companies do that, and this is not surprising, because excellent organisations are few organisations, and this requires a spectacular amount of commitment and dedication from senior management, and a solid succession plan which will eventually strengthen its bench strength.


June 09, 2012

The Impact of Knowledge Management on Managing Performance in Organisations

Organisations have been recently faced with daunting challenges like never before, and one of them is the tough competition in their market place, therefore they had to find new strategies to sustain their success, and build high performance work systems within their companies. In doing so, those successful organisations had to learn how they could improve their performance on the micro and macro levels.

As a result, this has led to creating new knowledge and the diffusion of this knowledge throughout the entire organisation. This process could be represented in a cycle where new knowledge is created and attained in the attempt and efforts of improving that performance; in return, this knowledge will feed into the performance and will therefore improve it, and so forth, the cycle restarts back again.

As we learned previously from Deming and Senge, to apply this cycle, organisations must create a safe learning environments, and build effective learning systems where people share their experience and knowledge, and building a culture where people are encouraged to propose new innovative and creative ideas, above that all, top management must be committed to the aforementioned actions in order to create that knowledge, store it, share it, and manage it effectively.

knowledge-performance cycle


June 08, 2012

Knowledge Pyramid

I came across an interesting piece of an article talking about the “knowledge pyramid”, or the data – information – knowledge – wisdom pyramid, or the knowledge hierarchy.

Looking at the figure below, at first glance, you can tell the difference between data, information and knowledge, and you can understand why they were positioned in that way; however, I find it quite difficult to differentiate between those terms, especially the thin line between knowledge and wisdom which is quite vague.

Many literatures and specialised websites have defined each one of these, but frankly speaking I still don’t understand the difference, even though I know that this framework is based on the complexity and understanding of the knowledge; the more the knowledge becomes complex and requires more understanding of that knowledge the hierarchy moves up to the next level. That is to say that knowledge is simple at the lowest levels and becomes much more complex at the top, where it requires a deep understanding of knowledge.

Anyway, by the time of writing this blog, I have managed to form a slight idea about each term, and find the thin line between each one of them. At the bottom of the pyramid, Data is the description of the world; it is facts that we can sense around us, while Information is processed data, “data with meaning”, we could also call it “weak knowledge”, but when it comes to knowledge; it’s quite an elusive term, there has been dozens of definitions for knowledge, but I haven’t been convinced by one of them, and couldn’t find a suitable one which is short, and sets this clear differentiation between knowledge and information on the one hand, and knowledge and wisdom on the other hand. Finally, the top of the pyramid is wisdom which comes from experience, it is a lengthy process, and people acquire it over time.

Overall, because of that confusion, does anybody have an answer to this question, and above all, if wisdom is at the top of the hierarchy, why don’t we aim that level rather than aiming to manage knowledge effectively, in other words why don’t we aim to manage wisdom, which I could partly answer it as very few people have this quality, is this really the answer? Could anyone help me out?

Knowledge Pyramid


June 06, 2012

Measuring Knowledge Management within Organisations

Measurement has been always one of the most challenging processes faced by all kind of senior managers in organisations – whatever the measure was – and definitely one of the most daunting activities performed by organisations. In fact, our whole MBE course is mainly based on the idea of measuring business performance in organisations.

Measuring is not an easy task, and especially those concerned with Intangible assets, or the human capital which is one aspect of the intangible assets of an organisation. Some studies indicate that around 85% of organisations’ value is based on their human capital. David Norton has remarked the significant importance of those assets within organisations, but sadly most organisations don’t tend to spend more time or money on understanding their employees, and the top management of those organisations have no understanding of how value is created within their companies. Norton says “the asset that is most important is the least understood, least prone to measurement, and hence least susceptible to management”.

To this end, when we recommended some specific knowledge management strategies for Waveriders; did we think how those strategies would add value, or how do they fit in the overall vision and strategy of the company? Or how could we make sure that these strategies are embedded within the value chain of the company? Or how could we tell if those strategies are effective or not, or are they the right ones for this company?

Maybe our proposed strategies are very good strategies overall, but they might not have the business impact, or they might not fit within the context of the current situation of the company, and where it wants to transform itself over the next three or five years’ time; I truly believe that this is a very difficult task for organisations, and it’s very hard to tackle, especially when it comes to tacit knowledge, and for instance it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of knowledge sharing, or knowledge retention. There might be indirect ways for measuring, but there is no direct ways for measuring the effectiveness of managing knowledge within companies.

I think one of the most important steps is to establish the right performance measures that link the knowledge management strategies with the vision and the overall strategy of Waveriders. This is the key building block for ensuring an effective measurement knowledge management system in Waveriders.


June 02, 2012

Knowledge Retention

Retaining knowledge is one of the main organisational challenges nowadays. On the one hand, talent acquisition and the “war for talent” due to the tough competition between companies to attract and retain talented and knowledgeable employees. On the other hand, the fact that a lot of the working population "baby boomers" is coming up to retirement age, and therefore they need replacements and transferring the knowledge and experience of those retirees to the new employees and the rest of the organisation. Respectively, this might result in disclosing information to other competitors in the same industry, or this loss of knowledge might take several years to replace and recover.

I have experienced that during my work in the cement industry, where we had to identify areas of knowledge and expertise where the company had to retain, and recorded that in manuals and policies, and standardise it for the whole company. What skills and expertise (functional/departmental) are crucial for the success of the company? Are they Related to systems or processes within the company? Or other sort of skills and areas of knowledge? This has to be identified and discussed with all the management staff at all levels in the company.

The HR department plays a big role in the setting up and the implementation of those retention strategies. The cycle of human resource management (R-D-R Cycle) starts with recruiting, and moves on to learning and development and accelerating the learning curve of any new staff, as well as identifying new learning and development interventions, and ends up with retaining those staff and reduce the loss of knowledge to the minimum. This cycle gives an idea of how knowledge is created, distributed, and retained within any organisation.

HRM Cycle

Therefore in order to sustain, the company needs to find ways and identify strategies in creating, distributing, retaining, and transferring that knowledge to other staff.


June 01, 2012

Informal Knowledge Networks

As human beings we tend to socialise, live and interact within groups. And this applies to the business world within organisations where people’s belonging need to a group is so crucial and important.

Elton Mayo’s famous studies in the industrial sector (Hawthorne Experiment) showed the strong impact of informal groups within organisations on the behaviours and the motivations of those workers in their groups. Those social needs and informational relations could play a big role in sharing information and knowledge.

Informal networks have no rules or structures, and it is not official in an organisation contrary to formal organisations or formal networks, and it can be helpful in some situations. Informal networks are important as much as informal networks within organisations. Some studies indicate that informal networks transmit information faster than formal ones.

I am highlighting the importance of this kind of network because I think people most of their times spend communicating with their colleagues, customers and their bosses through informal communication channels more than using the formal ones. And therefore informal networks are likely to play a significant role in which ideas and knowledge is shared between employees at all levels of the organisation.

Organisations have to use a combination of informal and formal techniques to ensure that information and knowledge are shared effectively between individuals. This proportion might differ from one organisation to another depending on their culture and leadership and managerial style. However companies have to understand how those informal networks play a big effect on sharing knowledge and information, because this will provide a better understanding of how they could be manipulated and implemented.

informal_networks.gif


May 27, 2012

Asymmetric Information in Organisations

Globalisation has changed the way we live and interact, and more people being able to easily access all types of information. To this end, information technology has increased the amount of information to organisations compared to others, and therefore one of these organisations can take advantage of the other organisation’s lack of knowledge in any contractual relationship, this is referred to as “asymmetric information”. This area is considered as a branch of economic theory or contract theory. This situation occurs where there is imperfect knowledge, or in other words where there is an inequality of information between two different parties in a contract or business arrangement.

For an instance, in an employment contract as an applicant and a company, at the start of the employment contract, the two different parties have less information about each other. The employee or new comer knows more about his/her abilities and his/her commitment to stay in the company than the company knows. On the other side of the coin, the employee has some perceptions about his/her organisation which might be partly true or partly false as contrary to the employer. Or in organisational decision making where organisations need as much information and knowledge to make a robust decision making in different organsitational aspects.

These examples give a clear understanding of how asymmetric information is important to be understood by organisations. Applying this area of contract theory to different aspects of organisational operations and functions such as employment, procurement and logistics, training and development, etc. are crucial for the organisational success, and thriving in this tough competitive world of business today.


Sharing Knowledge Vs Sharing Information

When we say that people within an organisation share knowledge, do we mean that literally or are we actually trying to say that people share information. From my own perspective, most of the time people share information rather than sharing knowledge, and often, when we say that we share knowledge we are actually saying that we are just sharing information. I think sharing knowledge is much more a complicated process than sharing information.

I have tried to search for some articles or literatures about the differences between these two terms on the internet but I didn’t find anything which could help me out in this regard. However, if we go back to their original meanings in the Cambridge and Oxford dictionary we could reckon the difference as the following:

  1. Knowledge has been defined by Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries respectively:
  • “Understanding of or information about a subject which a person gets by experience or study, and which is either in a person's mind or known by people generally”.
  • “Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”.

2. While Information has been defined by Cambridge dictionary as: “facts about a situation, person, event, etc”.

In this regard, one aspect of knowledge is information, but in this case information is being processed within our minds by the learning or education we go through, whereas information is just facts and numbers, etc. knowledge is processed information within people’s mind, it is not just raw data stored in their minds, but rather it’s more of an experience they went through a situation or an event.

With this in mind, it is a learning process and an experience rather than just storing data in the head of employees. Organisations must ensure that the learning taking place in organisations is not just from one side, but it’s a two – way process by which they engage and involve employees in the learning process, and apply tools to ensure that the value of learning and money invested in learning is maximised.

I think most of the organisations share information, meanwhile they pretend that they are sharing knowledge; in fact they are just sharing information. This transition for organisations to move ahead from sharing information to sharing knowledge is one of the big challenges faced by them nowadays.


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