Knowledge Supply Chain …


I recently read a post by @nickknoco about the Knowledge Supply Chain. Nick draws a useful analogy with the concept of the Supply Chain, to describe how we could look at the flow of knowledge in the organization. Quite agree with Nick that when talking about supply chains, we dont start from the supply side, rather, we begin with the demand side, and this translates into first defining what it is that people need, and then creating a product (here, it would be a knowledge product, but the idea is similar) to satisfy that need. What i find more important is the analogy, because it recognizes the fact that knowledge flows through a value chain (or in an organization) quite analogous to material flowing through a supply chain.

Central to the idea of the knowledge supply chain is the understanding that knowledge flows, and that in any flow, like that of material or information in the supply chain, there are participants who enable the flow, and need to be at the focal point of any study of the flow. In the knowledge supply chain, it is the people, participating in the supply chain who are analogous to the organizations in a material supply chain. This is something KM practitioners already understand (KM is about people is the most written about, least practised theme), so this gives us a sense of how looking at a supply chain perspective of KM would lead us to things we are already familiar with.

So where does the organization come into the picture. The way I see it, the organization provides the backdrop for this supply chain or flow. I wouldnt go so far as to say that the organization is the reason for this flow, because knowledge flows span organizations, and there is no reason to assume that there was no knowledge-sharing in the pre-modern organization-era. Having said that, the organization does provide the context for the flow, and that is one of the aspects that I meant by backdrop (which is a clever thing to write, given that I havent the foggiest idea about what else I meant). In addition to providing the context, the organization also sets the tone for a knowledge-marketplace. Any supply chain is a series of marketplaces which define the optimum value exchange (pricing of products or services being only one component of value), and have a more-or-less well defined set of participants. In other words, the supply chain and marketplace views of KM are quite analogous, and I have since long been supporting this way of looking at KM.

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