Organizational learning, for many, is still a confusing concept. Knowledge is an abstract thing—it's not a tangible asset—and so understanding how to manage and disseminate it can be tricky. And yet, it is essential for the success of any business. Without sound knowledge management practices, a company is merely spinning its wheels: it's not going anywhere.
In this article, I’m going to give you a glimpse of five companies that excel at using a knowledge management system.
No list of companies that use the knowledge management system would be complete without at least a cursory consideration of Ford. The global automaker has been a long time practitioner of knowledge management best practices. This coupled with many other factors has allowed it to cheat death on numerous occasions and remain a profitable enterprise.
Ford particularly applied knowledge management principles to product development processes. Early in the history of the Internet, Ford used a web-based knowledge base software to maintain quality standards across its product line. This early adoption allowed Ford to raise its initial quality by 18% and reduce its warranty cost by $1 billion.
The auto major is great at knowledge management because the company has been doing it for a long time and has gathered enough experience to refine its approach to knowledge management meaningfully.
GE [General Electric]
GE is another major player that has successfully implemented knowledge management practices. We live in an age that’s oversaturated with data. Sharing and managing this data is crucial to ensure that business processes are streamlined. GE has managed to sidestep this problem through its Corporate Executive Council, which is one of the good examples of knowledge management. The council represents a compendium of management that meets for two days to share information and experience. This allows knowledge to be shared at the broadest levels of the company, allowing management to get a grip on the business' successes and failures as a whole.
Amazon has been excelling at knowledge management since it took a plunge into e-commerce in the late 90s. The company applies many-core knowledge management and user experience principles in catering to the needs of its employees.
One such principle is that of housing a single interface to meet the needs of all its users. This keeps all items easy to index and find, and has allowed Amazon to skyrocket and diversify its business from selling books and all kinds of equipment to even having its own product lines that are competing with pretty much any item imaginable, from Bluetooth speakers to foam rollers.
Each of these businesses has a different approach to knowledge management. What they all share in common is a commitment to knowledge management practices and seeing how they apply to their business. The result from this commitment is - tremendous success - yet another thing in common in all these companies.
Amazon is one of the best examples of knowledge management in business. Take a cue from it and revamp your knowledge management strategies.
Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney is an international aerospace manufacturer based in Connecticut. It reported an operating profit of $1.9 billion in 2015 on revenues of $14 billion. Given the high profit it clocked, the company has been studied at length for its successful practice of knowledge management.
Some years ago, Pratt & Whitney realized that half of their engineers would soon be eligible for retirement, and they were scrambling to find ways to preserve the knowledge held by its critical staff. Pratt & Whitney looked at how knowledge could be systematized and centralized in the firm—in effect, treating the problem effectively. This practice allowed the company to save over $25 million. Pratt & Whitney is another great example of a company that uses a knowledge management system effectively.
The World Bank is an excellent example in the philanthropic sector. For a long time, it has been trying to decentralize its operations— convert from an essentially top-down, Washington-based financial institution to a company that empowers its clients through knowledge sharing and information. This has been a long journey for the company.
Now, the World Bank is delving deep into the intricacies of knowledge management. At a recent conference for international development, a representative from the Bank noted that it was not solely working on capturing explicit knowledge, but also on the more qualitative aspects of knowledge such as discussions and opinions. She also shared that the World Bank is trying to formulate a robust action plan to boost knowledge management.
The firms mentioned above provide excellent examples of knowledge management.
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Hopefully, the knowledge management practices of these businesses can serve as solid blueprints that you can learn from. Through these profiles, I hope you can hone your knowledge management skills and bring your business to the point where it can gather real momentum based on a bedrock of shared knowledge.
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