Knowledge mapping

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The process of creating a knowledge map

Purpose and benefit

Knowledge mapping is a process which creates a map of a selected knowledge domain, i.e. knowledge map. Knowledge mapping can be used as a tool to facilitate knowledge processes, e.g. learning, or business processes, e.g. evaluating the risk of knowledge loss. Knowledge mapping may be performed by just one person, relating to their personal knowledge or on the level of the whole organisation or anything in between, and it can concentrate on the current situation or have a future oriented view. It helps to see where knowledge resides and where possible gaps are.


Knowledge mapping is a mapping process which can be used for managing knowledge or knowledge assets of an organization. The process of knowledge mapping involves defining the knowledge domain to be mapped and the relationships within the domain and creating a symbolic representation of this.


Knowledge mapping can have similar variations according its purpose.

  • It may concentrate on the current situation or have a future oriented view.
  • It may concern itself with knowledge of one individual, knowledge of a team or knowledge of a whole organisation.

Knowledge mapping can be used as a tool in several situations. For example:

  • determining knowledge loss risks or knowledge gaps, or
  • when facilitating knowledge processes, or
  • used as a complementary mechanism in a work hand over process, e.g. for succession purposes.

The output of knowledge mapping is a knowledge map. The exact form of the output and the suitable mapping process depend on the objective of creating the knowledge map. The end result can be

Reference [1] provides an example of a knowledge mapping process on an organizational level.

Success factors

  • The availability of a suitable modelling software package is essential.
  • Modelled knowledge should be validated by other experts and peers if possible.
  • Ensure that the knowledge maps are available (read-only) for others to view. A portal or intranet is usually needed for this.
  • Experience in the use of knowledge mapping software is essential – although most packages are very easy to use.

Common pitfalls

  • Trying to map a too broad knowledge domain. This may lead to too complex knowledge maps which are difficult to understand.
  • Mapping readily known and understood information.
  • Providing only a superficial view of the selected knowledge domain. There are knowledge domains which can not be captured on a single page of a knowledge map!
  • Creating a knowledge map without sufficient review. In this case the map stays incomplete and difficult to understand.
  • Not sharing or transferring the knowledge. If a knowledge is mapped and never used then the whole process has little value.


[1] Day, J., How Knowledge Mapping is Being Used to Integrate Plans for Safe and Reliable Operations, In International Conference on Human Resource Development for Nuclear Power Programmes: Building and Sustaining Capacity Strategies for Education and Training, Networking and Knowledge Management, IAEA CN‐215, 2014, pp. 167-169.

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