What is the Value of Knowledge™ approach?

The First Wave

Here’s a little background. As early as the 1960s, some smart and forward-looking people recognized the essential and growing role of knowledge in our economy and society. Economist Fritz Machlup and management thinker Peter Drucker were among the First Wave to recognize and document this trend — which now, over a half-century later, we take for granted.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, while these pioneers left us with grand visions, insights, and theories, they left us with little in the way of tools to implement these ideas in the modern enterprise. So “knowledge” languished for three decades until a Second Wave came along in the 1990s — Nonaka and Takeushi, Davenport and Prusak, Thomas Stewart, and others. The knowledge ball moved down the field — it was a heady, exciting vision.

But it still had not taken root in the workday world. “Knowledge management” (as it became known) continued to be a slave to the waves of the business cycle. In good times, it was tried out; in hard times, it was cut back — often brutally, as in the recessions of 2000-2001 and 2008-2009. In short, knowledge as a resource was unsustainable.

Sustainable Knowledge

Sustainable knowledge (as we’ll call the present Third Wave) derives from this core concept: That Knowledge, like any other resource (e.g., plant and equipment, raw materials, people, and capital) carries with it Benefits and Costs. In other words, knowledge is an investment, not just an overhead expense. The ROI of knowledge can be measured, just as it is with investments in tangible enterprise resources.

I have chosen as my life’s work the making operational of the insights that those giants before me have provided. My mission is to translate these big, hairy, audacious ideas into things that organizations can use — to solve their problems, to serve their customers and clients, and to achieve better performance.

Making Knowledge Work™

I’m “making knowledge work” — which we have adopted as our tag line. To this end, I have built a portfolio of assessment tools, models, lenses, and frameworks collectively called the Value of Knowledge™.

My approaches, once grand aspirations, have now been prototyped, built, and battle-tested. Starting in 1996, I have developed training materials for both corporate and academic consumers, have presented these frameworks and tools to executives worldwide, and — most importantly — have used them in client engagements in a range of industries. The earliest of these was the Knowledge Value Chain®, but by now there are many others, several described elsewhere on this site. Most have been reworked repeatedly until they yielded results that met my standards — and that our clients benefitted from.

The Knowledge Paradox

My four decades as a management researcher and consultant have taught me this core lesson: That Knowledge is the not only the most valuable enterprise resource, paradoxically it is also the most misunderstood and most randomly managed. The good news is that (1) there are huge gains to be made by doing this even a little better than it’s done now, and that (2) there now exist industrial-strength tools to achieve this.

Does my experience resonates with yours? If so, ping me and let’s start a dialogue. I would gain from that, and I suspect you would too.

— TKA President and Founder Tim Powell

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