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Knowledge Management in an Icelandic Food Additives Company

Knowledge Management in an Icelandic Food Additives Company
Sigmar Thormar
Skipulag consulting


What are we going to talk about
- Great interest now in Knowledge Management
- But is Knowledge Management nonsense?
- Is KM needed in the workplace?
- Real KM problems in an Icelandic food additives company
- Social science methods help create a company knowledge repository
- Conclusion; Your questions

What is Knowledge Management?
- KM is concerned with systematic, effective management and utilization of an organization’s knowledge resources
- It encompasses the creation, storage, arrangement, retrieval and distribution of an organization’s knowledge (William Saffady, 1998)

Is Knowledge Man. Nonsense?
- What we call KM is already covered by other management fields
- So no need for KM (Prof. Tom Wilson)
- Just a trick by software sellers/consultants to repackage older damaged goods
- Everyone appears to have their own unique definition of what KM is (Steinar Frimannsson, Reykjavik Energy)

My own answers to this
- Prof. Wilson has some points
- Lot of nonsense written on Knowledge Man.
- IT people and computer consultants have attempted to “grab” KM
- They might not be the right people for the task
- There is disillusion toward KM in general
- This situation is not good

Let’s look at the real world - Can we see real KM problems in the workplace?
- are there companies concerned with unique new knowledge problems?
- Changes taking place
- companies are in fierce competition; new demands of market, short life cycle of goods, globalization etc.
- companies close down/unemployment if they are not competant

Food production in western world - Very few work on the farm/less than 1% in U.S.A.
- But food manufacturing/ production/ preparation/ Services are a major (20 – 25%) sector of the economy
- Iceland and Denmark have major food sectors
- our companies now meet international competition/ globalisation

Does the food sector need KM?
- Dynamic product development in this sector in Iceland/Denmark
- develop or die
- Can we see/identify an example/examples of a need for KM in this sector
- Why and how do food companies need KM?
- An example would help us know if KM is needed or nonsense
- Lets look at an Icelandic company

The food additives company
- Sell spices, protein, starch and phosphats for food production/preparation
- They solve problems for their clients
- as part of the selling process
- They acquire knowledge in this work
- This knowledge then sells more addivives
- They do not sell services; recipies or anything like that

The unique Icelandic environment
- Small nation, small companies
- The food additives company has good personal access to their clients
- would be allowed elsewhere?
- They are constructing a “knowledge sharing” environment with their clients
- Objective; A growing strong food additives company
- The company is moving into exports

Unhappy with IT people
- The company has made various attempts at better shoring and retrieving their internal knowledge
- they have not solved this problem (KM problem)
- They bought “Content Management”
- which is a computer sci. approach to KM
- but felt that approach was wanting
- They wish to make use of library and information management methods

What has this got to do with us?
- It shows us “KM problems” in the workplace
- The spokesmen of the company want Knowledge Management based on social science methods
- This is a result of their own internal policy making

Conclusion
- KM needs to establish itself as an independent academic discipline
- Until that happens people can call the field nonsense if they want
- KM needs industrial research, real live examples
- like our food additives company
- Empirical reality will help us construct theoretical Knowledge Management
- Future bright for KM?

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