What's your strategy for managing knowledge?

Harv Bus Rev. 1999 Mar-Apr;77(2):106-16, 187.


The rise of the computer and the increasing importance of intellectual assets have compelled executives to examine the knowledge underlying their businesses and how it is used. Because knowledge management as a conscious practice is so young, however, executives have lacked models to use as guides. To help fill that gap, the authors recently studied knowledge management practices at management consulting firms, health care providers, and computer manufacturers. They found two very different knowledge management strategies in place. In companies that sell relatively standardized products that fill common needs, knowledge is carefully codified and stored in databases, where it can be accessed and used--over and over again--by anyone in the organization. The authors call this the codification strategy. In companies that provide highly customized solutions to unique problems, knowledge is shared mainly through person-to-person contacts; the chief purpose of computers is to help people communicate. They call this the personalization strategy. A company's choice of knowledge management strategy is not arbitrary--it must be driven by the company's competitive strategy. Emphasizing the wrong approach or trying to pursue both can quickly undermine a business. The authors warn that knowledge management should not be isolated in a functional department like HR or IT. They emphasize that the benefits are greatest--to both the company and its customers--when a CEO and other general managers actively choose one of the approaches as a primary strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / organization & administration*
  • Consultants
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Economic Competition
  • Humans
  • Information Management*
  • Information Services / organization & administration
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Knowledge*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Staff Development
  • United States