Wow, 5 write-ups and still no definition. So let me have a try
(I'm not an economist nor a manager, so take this with a grain
If you grew up in a capitalistic country, you have probably
learned at school that there are three factors
needed in every economy to create anything of value (be it a
product or a service): Labor, Land and
Capital. Since capital (i.e. machines) is in the
long run normally cheaper than people, much of the physical labor
needed to produce things has already been replaced by capital (and
some 'land' like e.g. energy). Now many workers contribute their
knowledge and their experience instead of their strength.
Knowledge management can be seen as an attempt to increase the
efficiency of these knowledge workers similar to
how the assembly line increased the efficiency of physical workers.
A lot of people mean different things when they say "knowledge
management". In the sense of the broad definition given above
knowledge management encompasses a lot of
Of course computer scientists are often fascinated
the most by the
"Knowledge capture" part, but also management types seem to
like it. Since knowledge is - in contrast to strength - closely
related to its owner (i.e. the employee), companies fear that
success-critical knowledge might get lost as employees are
increasingly willing to change their employer. A strategy to defend
against this (beside a lot of others) is to try to capture the
knowledge of the workers in an easily accessible way so any
replacement worker can start on nearly the same level as the went-away.
Capturing knowledge already has happened for a long time. Just
remember all the reports, papers, ... you or your boss have to write.
But with the advent of computers, the web and full-text search
indices the 'easy access' problem might also become solvable. One
approach would be to have workers enter their findings into a
database like E2 where others with the same information need can find
them later on. (And then there are all these visions of
Science-Fiction authors about information accessible with a thought and
an eyelid wink.) Of course this creates up-front costs (the work time
of entering knowledge) so don't expect it to happen soon in the
current quarterly result-oriented economy.
In such a 'mechanistic' knowledge management scenario humans are
in the long run only needed to process information using the
knowledge provided by the system and producing new knowledge by
having lapses of creativity. In the very long run the system itself
might become intelligent enough to do all the processing on its own.
That will be the time when Men is no longer needed.
As a contrast to this top-down definition have a look at "What
is knowledge management"
(http://www.media-access.com/whatis.html) an IMHO good
(BTW, I'm also not a native English speaker. Please /msg me if any
of the economic terminology above is wrong.)