The classic one-line definition of Knowledge Management was offered up by Tom Davenport (1994):

“Knowledge Management is the process of capturing,

distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”

Knowledge management is a way to make the best use of knowledge. For 360 Living, that means making use of health knowledge.


KNOWvember is a new initiative for knowledge specialists to share the many ways they mobilize evidence and knowledge enabling people to learn before, during, and after everything they do so that good practice can be replicated and pitfalls avoided.

In the world of healthcare, there is a continual flow of new knowledge. This new knowledge can expand our decision-making processes for both personal and professional growth. With well-organized knowledge, we can provide more informed decisions and alleviate the overflow of data that can occur every day.

Demystifying Knowledge Management

Before one can begin to talk about knowledge management (KM), one must start by clearly defining the meaning of the word “knowledge.”

Davenport (1999) defined the three components of knowledge management as follows: 

  • Data – the lowest point, an unstructured collection of facts and figures 
  • Information – the next level, regarded as structured data 
  • Knowledge – defined as “information about information”

Increasingly, one sees definitions that treat knowledge as a more complex and personal concept that incorporates more than just information. Knowledge is then defined as the information, skills, and understanding that you have gained through learning or experience.

Knowledge management is the systematic management of an organization’s knowledge assets for the purpose of creating value while meeting person and professional goals. It consists of the initiatives, processes, strategies, and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement, and creation of knowledge.

Knowledge Management for Health

The process of integrated knowledge management includes:

  • Identification of needs
  • Identification of knowledge resources
  • Acquisition, creation, or elimination of knowledge related resources/processes/environments
  • Retrieval, application and sharing of knowledge
  • Storage of knowledge

It is important to note that none of these processes are independent, and all are affected by countless factors. This is why knowledge management frameworks are very different and can be presented in a wide variety of ways.

Identification of Needs

When addressing personal health, start with your personal needs – the WHAT. Doctors, sociologists, philosophers, and economists all have different views of what needs are. The World Health Organization defines health as: “a state of complete physical, psychological, and social well-being and not simply the absence of disease or infirmity.”

A more romantic definition would be Freud’s: “Health is the ability to work and to love.”

Healthcare Needs versus Health Needs

Health care (health education, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, terminal care) are services that can be supplied. Health needs, however, incorporate the wider social and environmental determinants of health, such as deprivation, housing, diet, education, employment. This wider definition allows us to look beyond the confines of the medical model based on health services, to the wider influences on health. The health needs of a population are constantly changing, and many will not be amenable to medical intervention.

Identification of Knowledge Resources

Identification of knowledge resources is a critical step in Knowledge Management. The purpose of knowledge identification is to identify the relevant and needed knowledge that exists within personal boundaries. To leverage personal health knowledge effectively (acquiring, developing, sharing, or using knowledge), one needs to know who or where their knowledge sources are and what knowledge those sources have in the first place.

Acquisition, Creation, or Elimination of Knowledge 

After assessing needs and resources, it is important to apply only the knowledge that is necessary. This can mean acquiring new knowledge from valuable resources, creating your own knowledge, or eliminating knowledge you have found to be unnecessary or unreliable. 

Retrieval, Application and Sharing of Knowledge

The more data, information, and knowledge that is stored in our brains, the more difficult it is to locate what we need. Knowledge retrieval seeks to return information in a structured form, consistent with human cognitive processes as opposed to simple lists of data items making the knowledge easier to apply. When available knowledge is used to make decisions and perform tasks through direction and routines, one has succeeded in knowledge application.

Knowledge management is about making the right knowledge or the right knowledge sources (including people) available to the right people at the right time. Knowledge sharing is the single most important aspect in this process, since the vast majority of Knowledge Management initiatives depend upon it. Knowledge sharing can be described as either push or pull.The pull is when one actively seeks out knowledge sources (e.g. library search, seeking out an expert, collaborating with a coworker etc.), while knowledge push is when knowledge is “pushed onto” the user such as through media.

Knowledge sharing depends on the habit and willingness of the person to seek out and/or be receptive to these knowledge sources. This is why the right culture, incentives, and so on must be present.

Storage of Knowledge

A super clean organization system does not actually help us retain knowledge. Rather, such a system would require so much maintenance effort that it subverts the very thing that it promises to do–help us learn. Instead, find a way to process, share, and store knowledge in a way that YOU learn best. This can be through presentation, personal database, artwork, or journaling. Learning is for life and knowledge deserves a safe home for life.  We all need a personal repository of knowledge because otherwise, our knowledge might not stand the test of time.


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