Knowledge Mobilization

Browsing the Net, I came across an interesting term ‘knowledge mobilization’
in an old article pub-lished in The Manchester Review. It has the same acronym
as ‘knowledge management.’ The distinction is subtle but powerful. Knowledge
exists in all organizations. It exists with people, in books, in papers, in
reports, in meeting notes-whatever, you name it. Technology helps in
organizing it better but it does not always help in making the utilization
better. That is a more complex process involving people, processes, and

Mobilization is all about being able to use what you possess. As such, a huge
collection of information is of little use if it cannot be made available to the
right people at the right time and in the right format. Else, it remains a
source that may make the servers, on which it resides, knowledgeable but of no
practical use. Nowhere is this concept more important than in the global BPO
industry. Outsourcing depends on the ability of an external organization to
harness the customer’s knowledge base and its own expertise in a synergistic
manner. That means mobilizing the knowledge that already exists, without adding
more to it. Yet, very often the focus shifts to adding more information-simply
because technology makes it possible.

Shyam MalhotrA

Very often the focus shifts to
adding more information, instead of mobilisation existing
information, simply because technology makes it possible

What exactly is knowledge mobilization? It is making the best use of
available information, creating new knowledge in the process. Knowledge is
different from information in that it is not only a message or an analyzed piece
of data; it is information that has a use or purpose. We are living in times
when geographical boundaries and distinct economies are becoming hazy. This is
making companies shift their focus away from physical capital to human capital,
recognizing the vast amount of information people carry. The diverse efforts of
organizations around the world to share knowledge are being pursued under
various labels, including knowledge management, knowledge sharing, the learning
organization, intellectual capital management, or intellectual asset

Whatever label it chooses, any organization embarking on this course must
confront a number of key obstacles. The biggest challenge: to take the mindset
away from ‘knowledge is power’ to ‘knowledge sharing is power.’ Other
issues include the fear of learning from outsiders (outside the
company/function/department); too much focus on detailed processes rather than
the bigger picture; and treating knowledge mobilization as a quick win and
difficulty in the buy in of all functions. The second would be the fact that
many decision making processes run independent of even the available knowledge
resources. And this phenomenon is not just limited to the lower echelons. It
cuts across all levels.

There are many implementation examples and some success stories. Netscape
Corporation is reported to have had a high success in the capital markets based
on its ability to manage knowledge assets. Infosys, a pioneer in the area of
knowledge mobilization in India, has adopted an evolutionary strategy for the
same. It has formally and continually addressed the four dimensions of knowledge
mobilization-people, process, technology and knowledge-and has also set up a
knowledge mobilization architecture capable of adapting to changing facets of

Yet, one must confess that though the benefits are many, the implementations
are too few. Maybe organizations are waiting for a plug-and-play package to
arrive. In the meantime, they could start with mobilising what they already
possess. The results can be satisfying and surprising.

The author is Editor-in-Chief of CyberMedia, the publishers of Dataquest
(with inputs from Saswati Sinha) Shyam

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