Knowledge Roles: The Chief Knowledge Officer and Beyond

Abstract: Knowledge management is all the rage. It has replaced reengineering as the hot conference topic of the day. And it’s not just being discussed-it’s actually being done.
Hewlett-Packard unveiled more than 20 initiatives to manage knowledge at a recent workshop. In the past couple of months, I’ve heard from headhunters about several job openings for chief knowledge officers. My usual barometer to measure whether a movement is real is the appearance of related help-wanted ads in the Sunday New York Times. Last Sunday: Bingo! Since such positions will proliferate, I thought it might be useful to describe the range of knowledge management roles.
Leave aside metaphysical questions about what constitutes knowledge and how it differs from information. In practice, most knowledge management initiatives combine information and knowledge, so nobody worries much about where to draw the line. If information, as Peter Drucker once noted, is “data endowed with relevance and purpose,” let’s view knowledge as high-test information. Knowledge Versus Training
Distinctions worth making, however, is the differences among knowledge management, organizational learning and intellectual capital. The distinctions are evident in the types of people hired for the senior knowledge role and in their titles. Chances are a “chief knowledge officer” captures and leverages structured knowledge, with information technology as a key enabler. But if the moniker is “chief learning officer” (a position recently established at GE and Coca-Cola, for example), bet that the job is about training and education, involving the HR function more than the IS group. Positions having “intellectual capital” in the title tend to be hybrids, with a focus on converting knowledge into revenues and profits.
At Coca-Cola, Judith Rosenblum, the new CLO, was previously vice chair for “learning, education and human resources” at Coopers & Lybrand. Her job at Coca-Cola, according to the appointment memo, involves “creating and supporting an environment in which learning-and applying what we learn-is a daily priority for all of us.” It sounds as if the role will include a strong dose of cultural change, along with the usual training and HR bureaucracy. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I wonder if it’s enough to make a difference in the day-to-day management of know-how.

Tom Davenport: Knowledge Roles: The CKO and Beyond. CIO Magazine, April 1, 1996

Copyright © CIO Communications. All rights reserved.

Related book chapter:

  • Davenport, T. & Prusak, L.: Knowledge Roles and Skills. In: Davenport, T. & Prusak, L. (1998). ‘Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage what they Know’, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA., pp. 107-122 (Ch. 6) Preview » | Purchase »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *