A model describing the production of knowledge, its validation, the integration of new knowledge into the organization's knowledge base, and the feedback of this new knowledge into the production, thus closing the cycle
Purpose and benefit
The knowledge lifecycle assures that only those knowledge will be incorporated in the organization's knowledge base and operational environment, which undergoes a process of organizational validation. This approach helps to avoid invalid knowledge entering in the operational environment of the organization.
The concept of a knowledge lifecycle is one of the central points in what is often referred to as "the second generation of KM", it's main proponent being "The New Knowledge Management" . In contrast to the first generation, which concentrated on the organization and distribution of already existing knowledge, the second generation of KM is concerned with knowledge production, the creation of new knowledge.
The basic idea of the knowledge lifecycle according to The New KM is Karl R. Popper's fallibilism doctrine, which states that any truth or theory cannot be proven by verifying its propositions, since humans are fallible and can never know the truth with certainty. Thereby, a theory can only be hold valid as long as it is not disproved by experiment or experience, which is termed falsification. According to the knowledge lifecycle knowledge production occurs in 3 stages (see Fig. 1):
- The individual/organizational learning or knowledge acquired externally will lead to the formulation of a knowledge claim. In order to process further, the knowledge claim should be codified.
- The knowledge claim undergoes a process of organizational validation. At this stage the knowledge claim can fall into one of the 3 following categories:
- Validated knowledge claim. The knowledge claim has gone through the organization's validation process, it has been analysed and found that is was valid (i.e. not falsified)
- Invalidated knowledge claim. The knowledge claim has gone through the organization's validation process, it has been analysed and found that is was not valid. It should not be integrated into the organization's knowledge base. It can either be completely rejected, or sent back to the previous stage for modification and it will form a corrected, new knowledge claim.
- Unvalidated knowledge claim. The knowledge claim has not gone through the organization's validation process, it has not been analysed for validity. It can either be valid or invalid. Further analysis needed.
- If the knowledge is valid (i.e., not falsified), it is integrated into the organization's operating environment, and fed back into the knowledge production processes.This closes the knowledge lifecycle.
According to the broadness and the specifics of the knowledge to be inserted into the organization's knowledge base the stages of the knowledge lifecycle can be quite simple or quite complicated. For example the safety principles of the NPP is a broad and complex area and it needs a thorough and deep analysis before adding to the organization's knowledge base; whereas the actual design of a turbine screw needs much less verification and validation process.
The knowledge claim formulation must be preceded by two main types of knowledge creation processes:
- Individual and group learning - it unfolds in an individual and group level, but should be influenced by prior validation efforts.
- Operational experience and best practices are also important sources of the information based on which knew knowledge claims can be formulated.
- Information acquisition from external sources - a process by which an organization either deliberately or accidentally acquires knowledge or information produced by others external to the organization. To reinforce this source the organization should strengthen the external relationships, like membership in consortia, think tanks, research institutes, participation in industry conferences and external training programs etc.
The knowledge claim formulation consolidates the knowledge derived from individual and group learning, as well as information acquired from outside sources. It results in production of codified knowledge claims for submission to organizational validation process.
The knowledge claim validation should be a formalized and managed function which formally evaluates competing knowledge claims when put forth by the Knowledge Claim Formulation process. It requires the maintenance of codified organizational knowledge for use as a backdrop in considering newly formulated knowledge claims.
The knowledge integration should include all knowledge transmission, teaching, knowledge sharing, and other social and communication activity.
- Create formalized feedback mechanisms between knowledge integration phase and individual and group learning activities.
- Create formalized feed-forward mechanisms to knowledge claim formulation
- Create formalized procedures for receipt and codification of individual and group innovations at an enterprise level.
- Formalize concept of “knowledge structures” and associated expressions of knowledge claims (e.g., business process vs. strategy innovations, etc.
- Formalize with designated people, process and technology resources.
- Decentralize innovation!
- Institutionalize validation process as a formalized way of processing new knowledge claims.
- KM practitioners must establish validation criteria (i.e., the rules by which new rules will be evaluated: “meta-rules”).
If the feedback mechanism is not implemented or is not effective, the newly formulated knowledge claims cannot profit from the lessons learned during the previous ones.
Two types of error can be committed if the knowledge lifecycle has been implemented:
- Type 1: A knowledge claim is analysed and categorized as valid, although in the reality it is invalid. This is the more dangerous error type since it may lead to erroneous actions. This can be avoided if the evaluation criteria are carefully defined and strict enough.
- Type 2: A knowledge claim is analysed and categorized as invalid, although in the reality it is valid. This type of error is less dangerous in the sense that it does not lead to erroneous actions. However, it can lead to less effective actions since some of the valid potential will not used and exploited. This error may occur if the evaluation criteria are too restrictive.
If the result of the knowledge claim validation process will not be communicated and the valid knowledge will not be effectively implemented in the organization's knowledge base the implementation of the knowledge lifecycle has no use.
 McElroy, Mark W.: The new knowledge management. Complexity, learning, and sustainable innovation. Boston, MA: KMCI Press, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003. ISBN 0-7506-7608-6