In The eLearning Guild’s newest white paper, Managing Organizational Knowledge: Capturing, Sharing, and Using Collective Knowledge to Drive Learning and Productivity, authors Marc Rosenberg and Steve Foreman begin by asserting that “Organizational knowledge is the lifeblood of any business, government agency, military unit, nonprofit, educational institution, etc. Too often, however, that knowledge is hidden, buried, lost, out of date, or simply undiscovered. Managing organizational knowledge can be the difference between enterprise success and failure.”

A fresh look at knowledge management

The concept of knowledge management (KM), defined as “a collection of best practices and technologies that provides ways to capture, use, and share information” is not new, and for some it has a negative legacy. But the challenges that call for a KM solution have not gone away; in fact, they have intensified. So it is important to take a look at KM again, with fresh eyes.

One of the many valuable aspects of this article is this “fresh” look at what KM is (Table 1), and what it is not (Table 2). Understanding that critical difference is essential to moving forward with KM insights and solutions.

Table 1: Knowledge management’s specific purposes in the organization




Better tracking of intellectual capital

Inventory, manage, and find key technical and business knowledge

Enhanced business speed, responsiveness, and ability

Reduced redundancy of work

Recognize opportunities for consolidation of redundant projects

Lower costs and better use of resources

More reliable information

Reduce uncertainty about the accuracy and validity of information

Better decision-making

Precise knowledge distribution

Target the right information, at the right time, to the right people, at the right level of detail

Higher user value and learning

Knowledge and/or expertise sharing

Leverage the collective knowledge of the organization; share knowledge across distance and organizational boundaries

Greater teamwork and collaboration, less duplication of effort and rework

Increased knowledge asset security

Define access and entitlements by organization, level, content, etc.

Protection of intellectual capital

Enhanced customer value (marketing, sales, service)

Provide all organizations with access to the same complete set of customer information

Enhanced customer satisfaction


Allow new ideas to surface and develop into best practices at a faster rate

Generation of new knowledge


Prepare workforce for constant change and new challenges

Better use of human assets

Source: The eLearning Guild Research, 2016.
Table 2: What knowledge management is not



Training is about instruction, a refined and focused approach to moving learners through specific, predefined content. KM deals with information, in which workers decide for themselves when, how, and to what depth they will explore the content.

Data mining


We are awash with data, but we do not know what to do with it. KM requires that data be transformed into information, which we use to build our knowledge.

A website


KM is not a place on the web; it is about what you do with the web and how the web is organized to make workplace learning and performance improvements happen.

A search engine


A good search engine allows us to find relevant information. But, search results may include a mix of good and bad information. KM deals with curated content with higher accuracy, currency, and relevance.

A technology


Do not confuse the means with the ends. Technology is only an enabler of KM.

Source: The eLearning Guild Research, 2016.

Knowledge management: a larger toolbox of options

As Rosenberg and Foreman go on to note, “KM is not just training or eLearning in another format, nor is it their replacement. Rather, it is part of a broader, multidiscipline approach that provides a larger toolbox of options that better meets today’s complex learning challenges.”

The authors provide the following essential information in this white paper:

  • KM’s potential and what it means for organizational learning
  • How to define KM and distinguish it from other training and learning approaches, including eLearning and performance support
  • Differing perspectives of KM, including “top-down” and “social” approaches
  • Key components and technologies of a typical knowledge management system (KMS)
  • KM project steps and evaluation strategies, as well as several case studies which illustrate these steps and strategies
  • KM’s future and what it means—for organizations and for learning

The KM component of a learning and performance ecosystem

KM augments training, changing its role in each organization’s overarching learning strategy. The relationship between training and KM is an essential element within the learning and performance ecosystem, as shown below in Figure 1. The KM component of the ecosystem enables people to access needed content while working. From a workers’ perspective, the goal is to successfully research a topic and get answers quickly. From an organization’s perspective, the goal is to provide easy and reliable access to information.

NOTE: As defined by our authors, a learning and performance ecosystem enhances individual and organizational effectiveness by connecting people and supporting them with a broad range of content, processes, and technologies to drive performance. For more information on this important topic, see Learning and Performance Ecosystems: Strategy, Technology, Impact, and Challenges—also by Marc Rosenberg and Steve Foreman—for more about learning and performance ecosystems.

Source: The eLearning Guild Research, 2016.

Figure 1: KM within a learning and performance ecosystem

Knowledge management: future implications

Rosenberg and Foreman conclude this important white paper by stressing that “the implications of the growing use of KM by the learning and development (L&D) organization will be profound. Expanding the focus and changing the culture of those charged with providing L&D leadership is key. Shifting the paradigms of more traditional training departments will be more important to success than any particular technology or process.”

Organizational knowledge needs assessment

One final point: You can get actively involved with these KM principles and insights by using the Organizational Knowledge Needs Assessment in the white paper. The assessment will help you determine which of the 14 problematic telltale signs that it describes is also present in your organization. If you can identify more than one of these signs, the authors recommend that you discuss the situation with your stakeholders and determine the most critical challenge(s). The assessment process and findings will help you prioritize and focus your organization’s KM work on the areas of greatest urgency and payoff.