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Knowledge Mapping: Graphical Identification of Knowledge

Lars-Thorsten Sudmann
Feb 5, 2020 8:23:17 AM

Knowledge Mapping is a method that allows companies to present the knowledge of a person or group. They are mostly interactive, graphical directories that map knowledge carriers and knowledge artefacts such as patents. However, why is knowledge mapping important? For whom is it useful? Also, how do you use it?

Labour, land and capital were the relevant goods of industrialisation. Today, they are complemented by knowledge. 60 to 80 per cent of total company value-add is attributed to knowledge within a company and its employees. The engineer and professor at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg adds that only 20 to 40 per cent of it is utilised. Therefore, there is precious knowledge potential hidden within companies. Consequently, this requires that companies first systematically map their knowledge capital and after that, manage it. Knowledge mapping is a suitable tool for this.

What Is the Difference Between Implicit and Explicit Knowledge?

The first necessary step to make this knowledge capital visible in the company is to distinguish the different types of knowledge. Some knowledge is apparent and can be grasped quickly. Nevertheless, other forms of knowledge are hidden and difficult to verbalise. Experts refer to this as implicit or explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge can be found in books, for example. Everyone can read it, look it up and usually understand it without help from third parties. Implicit knowledge is often found in the minds of people. Hence, it is also referred to as know-how. It is directly linked to a person, their circumstances, level of education, life and work experiences, as well as their creativity. Implicit knowledge can be just as individual as its owner.

Therefore, processing and understanding implicit knowledge are far more complicated than explicit knowledge. Another distinguishing feature between the two types of knowledge is that explicit knowledge can often be more easily shared and conveyed. Explicit knowledge often creates consensus within a group, whereas the truth content of implicit knowledge is more often questioned. As a result, elaborate discussions or even heated debates are often inevitable or even necessary. In any case, every company must understand in advance which of the two types of knowledge is required for the mapping as different types of knowledge maps exist.

The Types of Knowledge Mapping

There are four in total:

1.    Expert Files

Expert files are personal and target experts and their respective areas of expertise. Knowledge carriers are identified as experts, and thus the knowledge seeker can contact them to obtain information. In general, expert files are available on the corporate intranet. In addition, names are linked to contact information, which enables reaching out and thus transferring knowledge more efficiently. 

2.   Expertise Manuals

Expertise manuals are business-related and are useful for knowledge that can be documented and filed. These maps provide information on places and serve to store knowledge assets. The manuals are located around a knowledge object which might be a database, image, prototype or the like. The knowledge object is also linked to the knowledge area (which includes the object), the knowledge carrier (which can provide information on the object), and the location (where the object can be found).

3.   Diagrams

Diagrams are another type in which no expert, but the structure of knowledge is mapped. Forms of these maps are, for example, mind maps which visualise topics by creating a knowledge-intensive area in the middle and branching off the insights that come from it.

4.  Documentation

Documentation should be suitable for documenting and filing. It supplements by adding the explanation of the application to the presence of the knowledge within the considered area. The user of this documentation can also see specific knowledge applications that might be useful for their own work. Hence, this shows the order in which knowledge should be used in a process.

Why Knowledge Mapping?

In summary, knowledge mapping is an excellent way to map intricate knowledge systematically within a company. The added value, however, is the extended learning curve; it can not only map knowledge, but also connect a whole company, different experts and knowledge seekers. The networking results in further knowledge-creating value and improving the company's ability to innovate.

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