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Karl-Erik Sveiby: KM Today and Tomorrow

Karl-Erik Sveiby is world-renowned as he is one of the founding fathers of Knowledge Management. With over 20 years of experience, he is credited with the development of most of the concepts associated with knowledge management today.

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According to Liebowitz, Knowledge Management (KM) is the systematic and explicit application of knowledge by an organization so as to maximize the returns from its assets while also increasing its effectiveness (1999).

Sveiby passion for KM was established when he was working in a publishing company in the 1970s. By applying KM, the publishing company was able to generate amazing production and creativity results with only the employees. Consequently, they were able to stay ahead of their competitors. Sveiby is openly passionate about value creation and creativity through which a company/organization is able to achieve impressive results. However, KM benefits may only be realized if there is a sound knowledge-based strategy in place (Bennet, 2004).

Apart, from Sveiby himself, there are other important contributors to the field of KM who are known as thought leaders. They include Ikujiro Nonaka, Vema Alee, Hubert Saint-Onge, and Max Boisot. Nevertheless, Sveiby’s KM management concepts were highly influenced by Marshal McLuhan while accounting is the main inspiration behind his measuring concept (Bennet, 2004).

In the article, Sveiby clearly differentiates between knowledge and knowledge management. He clearly delineates knowledge as the ability to act in a certain framework or environment. On the other hand knowledge management, also KM is defined as the art of creating value by controlling and managing such intangible assets as human knowledge. Moreover, there is a distinction between KM and such quality concepts as Six Sigma or even TQM. Unlike the two concepts which focus on particular aspects of a business, KM is all-encompassing. It is more concerned and focused on how one runs all the facets of their business. KM is then likened to the learning organizational theory. However, unlike the theory, KM is sure to recognize the importance of the outside world, more importantly, the customers, and even the most effective method of approaching them (Bennet, 2004).

Tacit knowledge is one major type of knowledge in KM. Tacit knowledge refers to the kind of knowledge mostly held in people’s heads. It includes wisdom and understanding for instance Aboriginal knowledge. The other type of knowledge is explicit knowledge which is the knowledge that has already been documented in books (Grant, 2004). However, the transfer of tacit knowledge is a challenging affair. This is because tacit knowledge is akin to personal knowledge which is not easy to articulate. While computers may help in the handling of tacit knowledge and information, there is a need for the development and creation of other tools that can help knowledge managers be more creative, for instance, simulators. Simulators are important because they enable business people to interact with each other, through such mediums as computers. As a result, the decision-making process is speeded up. In addition, feedback relay becomes that much faster. Though business simulators are available in the market, they are often ineffective. This brings to the fore the link between KM and Information Technology (IT). To a great extent, KM is a technology trend. So, KM may not really be effective without IT (Bennet, 2004).

It is important that one is passionate about what they do. Passion makes one give their very best to a task and the outcome can only be a success. Sveiby is very passionate about KM. His passion for KM has driven him to not only participate in projects related to strategy but also to develop physical and simulation tools that may be used in education and planning. Sveiby has also been concerned with the development of theories that involve the use of measuring in learning. Measuring makes the use of such tools as mathematics and statistics, which not only serve to inspire critical thinking but also to make pictorial and word concepts that much clear. Little wonder then that Sveiby is credited with the development of most of the concepts related to KM. He is indeed a guru in the field and all this stems from the passion he has for the field (Bennet, 2004).

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There are two primal concepts in the KM field. One is what is referred to as the four power players in knowledge organization which serves to differentiate between managerial and professional knowledge. The other is related to the three types of intangible resources. These are customer capital which is related to the external, structural capital (also known as the internal structure), and most important of all human capital. Sveiby is credited with the development of the two concepts. Accordingly, human capital is a very crucial intangible resource because as per his values and beliefs, it is the people who are at the core (Bennet, 2004).

KM has both advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is the fact that knowledge management may also be used by individuals. It is not only restricted to companies and organizations. In individuals, KM may inspire critical thinking and questioning both of which leads to the creation of better organizations for people and also to a more knowledge-based and human way of managing people. Conversely, KM which also involves the use of technology may be used for purposes of controlling people as opposed to liberating them (Bennet, 2004).

As much as KM is crucial in organizations it has not been successful in transforming a majority of organizations into KM success cases. This is primarily because of the perception of the managers. Instead of looking at KM as a concept that could be used to help organizations systematize themselves in ways that will result in efficiency and effectiveness (Bellinger, 2004), they take KM as merely an application that needs implementation. This means there is no real commitment that may ensure the success of KM in organizations.

In the modern world, KM does not have to be restricted for use by organizations rather it may also be used by individuals. Moreover, governments may make use of it in the formulation of knowledge-based policies. If individuals, organizations, and governments hope to be effective in their endeavors, KM is the way to go.


Bellinger, G. (2004). Knowledge Management – Emerging perspectives. Web.

Bennet, A. (2004). Karl-Erik Sveiby: KM Today and Tomorrow? What makes me Passionate. Web.

Grant, R. (2004). Contemporary strategy analysis. London: Blackwell Publishers.

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Liebowitz, J. (1999). Knowledge Management Hand book. Boca Ranton FL: CRC Publishers.

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