Academic Advising Resources


Understanding Knowledge Management: Developing a Foundation for Future Advising Practices
Todd Little

Understanding knowledge management and its utilization within the organizational structure is an important first step toward developing a foundation for future techniques. Although the concept of knowledge management is not new, it is a topic which needs to be discussed within the advising area. This is especially true as new advisors are introduced into the academic environments and current advisors move toward other professions or retirement.
The knowledge obtained through the years needs to be collected, stored, and made available to the incoming group of new advisors. However, the use of the knowledge can also be beneficial for any current advisor as processes are continually being reviewed and updated. Even before the invention and implementation of computer systems and other electronic devices, knowledge was being obtained and utilized by both individuals and institutions. Creating a culture of knowledge management techniques is essential step toward ensuring existing knowledge is passed on to new members of the organization in appropriate manners (Manton, 2009).

What is knowledge?
Knowledge can be a challenging term to truly define given the nature of the human mind and it can take on multiple forms which can either be tangible or intangible in nature. In one sense, knowledge may be defined as the result of the mind’s processing which is triggered by some sort of external stimulation(Alavi & Leidner, 2001).  With this perspective, these external stimulations can exist in the form of the data and information provided and as the mind processes these external stimuli, the data and information is transformed into knowledge. This newly formed knowledge can then be expressed in various forms such as text, graphics, audio, or video which can be then be shared with other individuals.

Alavi and Leidner (2001) further explain the different types of knowledge and provide several categories to provide definition; however, two main categories can be dealt with initially. Tacit and Explicit knowledge are two areas which can be defined in order to build a foundation. Although both types of knowledge represent different perspectives, it should also be noted these two areas exist together and are dependent on each other. Where tacit knowledge exists within the actions and experiences; explicit knowledge exists in forms which can be communicated. Tacit knowledge, in essence, is challenging to disseminate via documentation; however, tacit knowledge can be shared and exchanged via training exercises and experiences. Unlike tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge can be presented in various printed or even electronic documentations.

Even though different types of knowledge exist, it is also possible to convert one type to another. Tacit knowledge takes the form of individual actions and experiences; however, these experiences can be converted to explicit knowledge by sharing the experience through written communications and expressing the results in a tangible manner in which other individuals within the organization can then access. The same is true when converting explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge. Advisors can be given manuals and documents outlining the policies and procedures of the office and organization; however, these advisors convert the knowledge into tacit knowledge through the use of training exercises such as role-playing or through direct contact with those in which the knowledge can be used.

Sharing the knowledge
As new advisors begin to transition into academic institutions, it is important for these new individuals to obtain the knowledge collected and stored by the current advisors within those institutions. Throughout the years, advisors and organizations have collected, processed, and stored information related to student records, academic policies, and other general areas. With new advisors entering the academic support arenas, it is necessary for these prior knowledge components to be shared and exchanged.
In regards to tacit knowledge, new advisors can obtain the expertise and knowledge of existing advisors through various tactics such as structured interviews, observations, and even through stories of organizational culture. Explicit knowledge can be easier to share due to the nature of how the knowledge exists. Through various documents such as manuals, written policies and procedures, informational brochures, new advisors can gain the necessary foundation to begin building their own informational base needed to complete their tasks. Each individual obtains knowledge differently so it can be beneficial to utilize various aspects of knowledge dissemination.  Part of the sharing of knowledge is the inclusion of continuous learning within the advising field (Key, Thompson, & McCann, 2009).
In the article by Key et al (2009), the concept of promoting a learning culture needs to be a continuing effort among organizations and individuals. In their research, it was noted many organizations recognize the need for knowledge management techniques which promote the sharing and exchanging of knowledge among its individuals and the push to increase these practices are needed within the upper levels of the organizations. If advisors are to make appropriate connections with their students and faculty members, having access to the explicit and tacit knowledge of the organization is necessary.

The challenge
The use of knowledge is not a new concept; however, the challenge to appropriately share and exchange the knowledge will always exist. Reviewing the current relationships between the various members of the campus (students, staff, and faculty) and the goals set forth by the campus will allow for a better understanding of overall processes and roles of these entities. With this better understanding, opportunities for improvement in better communication and sharing of knowledge. The sharing of knowledge becomes very important as new advisors enter the field and appreciate the necessity to collect, store, and share knowledge before it is lost (Brewer & Brewer, 2010).
The process of knowledge management begins with the identification and classification of the types of the knowledge which currently exist in the organization followed by the understanding of where and how the knowledge exists.

  • What knowledge can be obtained from faculty, staff, administrators, and students?
  • Can this knowledge be collected and stored?
  • Where or how can it be stored?
  • Is the use of printed documentation or electronic folders more appropriate?

There are several questions which can be asked and the challenge exists in how to best answer these questions.

Knowledge can be viewed as an intangible asset for any organization and it is an asset which can be utilized in various forms and exists in every individual. There is a difference between information and knowledge since the processes in our day-to-day lives are determined by each individual’s knowledge. It is the knowledge obtained which dictates the action to perform on the information given. The challenge then exists in how to utilize the knowledge toward better decision-making processes (Steyn, 2004).
Another challenge exists in how organizations utilize technologies. The use of technology will allow for more efficient means of disseminating knowledge among individuals; however, it does not mean the use of technology will make the process more effective. Establishing appropriate knowledge management techniques and processes still need to focus on the goals and objectives of the organization itself without technology driving the decision-making processes. The technology should be utilized as a tool or resource with organizational strategies determining the proper path toward accomplishing goals.

As training new advisors and providing ongoing professional development needs to occur, it is important for individuals and organizational leaders to recognize the importance of disseminating the knowledge collected over the years. The knowledge management practices to support advising techniques needs to be part of the culture of the campus and offices. Campus leaders are encouraged to promote the use of professional development activities which promote the exchange of knowledge and continuous learning. By providing these opportunities to current and new advising individuals, knowledge can be shared and exchanged in such ways which will only be positive and beneficial for those within the institution.

Todd Little
Hawley Academic Resource Center
Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa 


Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. (2001). Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems: Conceptual Foundations and Research Issues. MIS Quarterly, 25 (1), 107-136.

Brewer, P., & Brewer, K. (2010). Knowledge Management, Human Resource Management, and Higher Education: A Theoretical Model. Journal of Education for Business, 85 (6), 330-335.

Key, M., Thompson, H., & McCann, J. (2009). Knowledge Management: A Glass Half Full. People & Strategy, 32 (4), 42-47.

Manton, S. (2009). Manage Your Knowledge, Protect Your Intelletual Property. Managing Intellectual Property, Oct 2009 (193), 76-79.

Steyn, G. M. (2004). Harnessing the Power of Knowledge in Higher Education. Education (124), 615-631. 

Cite using APA style:

Little, T. (2010). Understanding Knowledge Management: Developing a Foundation for Future Advising Practices. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website:


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