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Managing the Knowledge Life Cycle

Most executives today recognize that their organizations’ ability to manage knowledge effectively is a strategic imperative. Just how they should go about developing that ability is the challenge. As in most other areas of management advice, there is no shortage of useful frameworks, models and checklists to choose from. Unfortunately, these solutions are generally presented as applicable in any and all situations, and managers are left to make their own mistakes as they use one tool or another to limited effect. Executives can begin to take a more effective approach if they realize that knowledge has a life cycle. Over the course of a five-year study, the authors have devised a model to help explain the life of an idea in commercial settings. The model shows that new knowledge is born as something fairly nebulous and that it takes shape as it is tested, matures through application in a few settings, is diffused to a growing audience and eventually becomes widely understood and recognized as common practice. In this article, the authors develop the concept of the knowledge life cycle in detail and then describe the appropriate strategies for managing ideas at each stage of the cycle.

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