Knowledge mobilization

DQW Bureau
11 Apr 2005


It is all about making the best use of available information and creating new

knowledge in the process

Browsing the Net, I came across an interesting term 'knowledge mobilization'

in an old article published in The Manchester Review. It has the same acro-nym

as 'knowledge manage-ment.' The distinction is subtle but powerful.

Knowledge exists in all organizations. It exists with people, in books, in

papers, in reports, in mee-ting notes-whatever, you name it. Technology helps

in organizing it better but it does not always help in making the utilization

better. That is a more complex process involv-ing people, processes, and


Mobilization is all about being able to use what you possess. As such, a huge

collection of information is of little use if it cannot be made available to the

right people at the right time and in the right format. Else, it remains a

source that may make the servers, on which it resides, knowledgeable but of no

practical use. Nowhere is this concept more important than in the global BPO

industry. Outsourcing depends on the ability of an external organiza-tion to

harness the customer's knowledge base and its own expertise in a synergistic

manner. That means mobili-zing the knowledge that already exists, without adding

more to it. Yet, very often the focus shifts to adding more information-simply

because technology makes it possible.


What exactly is knowledge mobilization? It is making the best use of

available informa-tion, creating new knowledge in the process. Knowledge is

different from information in that it is not only a message or an analyzed piece

of data; it is information that has a use or purpose. We are living in times

when geographical bou-ndaries and distinct econo-mies are becoming hazy. This is

making companies shift their focus away from physical capital to human capital,

recognizing the vast amount of information people carry. The diverse efforts of

orga-nizations around the world to share knowledge are being pursued under

various labels, including knowledge manage-ment, knowledge sharing, the learning

organization, inte-llectual capital management, or intellectual asset


Whatever label it chooses, any organization embarking on this course must

confront a number of key obstacles. The biggest challenge: to take the mindset

away from 'knowle-dge is power' to 'knowledge sharing is power.' Other

issues include the fear of learning from outsiders (outside the

company/function/depart-ment); too much focus on det-ailed processes rather than

the bigger picture; and treating knowledge mobilization as a quick win and

difficulty in the buy in of all functions. The second would be the fact that

many decision making processes run independent of even the available knowledge

resources. And this pheno-menon is not just limited to the lower echelons. It

cuts across all levels.

There are many impleme-ntation examples and some success stories. Netscape

Corporation is reported to have had a high success in the capital markets based

on its ability to manage knowledge assets. Infosys, a pioneer in the area of

knowledge mobiliza-tion in India, has adopted an evolutionary strategy for the

same. It has formally and continually addressed the four dimensions of knowledge

mobilization-people, pro-cess, technology and know-ledge-and has also set up

a knowledge mobilization archi-tecture capable of adapting to changing facets of


Yet, one must confess that though the benefits are many, the implementations

are too few. Maybe organizations are waiting for a plug-and-play package to

arrive. In the mean-time, they could start with mobilising what they already

possess. The results can be satisfying and surprising.

Shyam Malhotra is the

Editor-in-Chief of Cyber Media publications (with inputs from Saswati Sinha)