Chief Knowledge Officer and Reward Structures

Abstract: There is only one way under high Heaven to get anybody to do anything. Knowledge sharing cannot be mandated. The whole notion of sharing what an employee knows is diametrically opposite to the way in which reward structures in most companies work. Why would anyone want to share his knowledge if that knowledge is what provides his job security?

Successful knowledge management takes more than just technology; it takes cultural change and a change in the reward structures that drive work in most companies. You have to gain the hearts and the minds of the workers. They are not like troops; they are more like volunteers.[1]

This chapter discusses the leadership roles of people involved in a knowledge management team. Until now, we have focused on the key participants in the knowledge management team. However, knowledge management needs a champion to succeed, a leader who will take charge of running the show after implementation. So we look at what Nonaka calls knowledge activists[2] and discuss the emerging role of the chief knowledge officer (CKO). After examining the technological and organizational roles of the CKO , we evaluate whether your knowledge management project needs a CKO in the first place. Finally, we turn to change management processes, new reward structures, and process enablers that can be put in place to complement the knowledge management system.

A recent study of leading CKOs across the United States and Europe provides some new insights into this role and the characteristics of a typical successful CKO (see Figure 13-1).

Whether you use this to appoint your company’s CKO or gauge your own role, there will be something useful to take away from this chapter. Enthusiasm and active contribution by its proponents are, after all, the key determinants of a successful knowledge management system.


  • Understand what exactly is a CKO’s role.
  • Understand how a CKO is related to the CIO, CFO, and CEO.
  • Decide whether your company needs to have an “actual” CKO at all.
  • Understand the successful CKO’s technological and organizational functions.
  • Plan for knowledge management success using the CKO as an agent for selling foresight.
  • Manage and implement cultural change and process triggers to make knowledge management succeed.
  • Implement reward structures to complement successful knowledge management.

Amrit Tiwana: The CKO and Reward Structures. in: Tiwana, A.: The Knowledge Management Toolkit. Practical Techniques for Building a Knowledge Management System. Prentice Hall, 2000: 392-405 (Chapter 13).

Copyright © by Prentice Hall.

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