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Knowledge networking is the creation and development of knowledge through person-to-person networking, often augmented by online communications. [1]

+++ better references will be added to this article until October 6, 2008 +++

+++ This page is a copy of the October 2, 2008 version of Knowledge networking +++

General definition[edit]

David J. Skyrme[2] has based his definition among others on Naisbitt's work, he describes knowledge networking as “a phenomenon in which knowledge is shared, developed and evolved”, as a process of “human and computer networking where people share information, knowledge and experiences to develop new knowledge for handling new situations”. He sees knowledge networking as a different way of working where “it is about openness and collaboration across departmental, organizational and national boundaries and about building multiple relationships for mutual benefit.”

Gilbert Probst[3] describes knowledge networks as follows: “Networks, by definition, connect everyone to everyone. Hierarchies by definition, do not; rather they create formal channels of communication and authority. Networks operate informally with few rules, they depend on trust.”

Marleen Huysman and Dirk deWit describe knowledge networking as "a collective acceptance of shared knowledge as being the key method of generating value to the organization."[4]

Some systems theory driven authors see knowledge networks further as biological organisms which can take a variety of forms, and vary in how static and dynamic they are.[5]

History of the term[edit]

Descriptions of knowledge networking as such were mentioned at the end of the 20th century sometimes even before knowledge management has reached its peak of attraction.

Many approaches for knowledge networking were based on the assumption the knowledge should be combined and exchanged in personal networks. Schumpeter defined these two generic processes – combination and exchange – as the two major processes with which to generate innovations.

John Naisbitt mentioned in his book “Megatrends” in 1982 that there is a shift arising from hierarchies to networks and from the industrial society to an information society.[6]

Charles Savage, author of the book The Fifth Generation Management, has tried in 1996 to describe knowledge networking as “the process of combining and recombining on another's knowledge, experiences, talents, skills, capabilities and aspirations in ever-changing profitable patterns”.[7]

Characteristics of knowledge networking[edit]

David J. Skyrme further describes key characteristics of knowledge networking:

  • Structural components: the network's nodes and links
  • Links provide paths for communications, knowledge flows and developing of personal relationships
  • Nodes in networks can be individuals or teams
  • The nodes are the focal points for activity or formal organizational processes
  • The pattern of nodes and links continually changes
  • The density of connections exhibits many forms – some may be more circular with obvious hubs; others may be more diffuse
  • Individuals belong to several networks – in some they are more central than in others
  • There is often no discernible boundary to a network
  • Networks connect to each other; links strengthen and weaken
  • One-to-one and multiple conversations take place; asynchronously or synchronously
  • Knowledge flows on both deliberate and unanticipated ways

Knowledge networking and communities[edit]

Although literature distinguishes knowledge networking and communities of practice there are a lot of similarities. Kimiz Dalkir[8] describes communities of practice based on the work of Etienne Wenger the "father" of this topic. His description comes very close to the main attitudes of knowledge networking:

“Social constructivists argue that knowledge is produced through the shared understandings that emerge through social interactions. As individuals and groups of people communicate, they mutually influence each other's views and create or change shared constructions of reality (Klimecki and Lassleben, 1999). The social constructivist perspective views knowledge as context dependent and thus as something that cannot be completely separated from “knowers”.[9] Context helps distinguish between knowledge management and document management: whereas document management can be carried out in a more or less automated manner, knowledge management cannot be accomplished without involving people as well as tangible content.”

“A community of practice refers to “a group of people having common identity, professional interests and that undertake to share, participate and establish a fellowship”.[10]

“It can be defined as a group of people, along with their shared resources and dynamic relationships, who assemble to make use of shared knowledge, in order to enhance learning and create a shared value for the group.[11] The term community suggests that these groups are not constrained by typical geographic, business unit, or functional boundaries but rather by common tasks, contexts, and interests.

Community members may take an active role by contributing to discussions or providing assistance to other members. This is referred to as “participation”. Other members my simply read what others have posted without taking an active role themselves. These types of members used to be referred to as “lurkers” but this term has been replaced by “legitimate peripheral participation.

People who visit a community regularly but who do not post anything typically represent 90% or more of the total community participation. Passive members are not really passive in most cases, for they may be actively using and applying the content they have accessed online. The key roles in a community are

  • 1. visitors,
  • 2. novices,
  • 3. regulars,
  • 4. leaders, and
  • 5. elders. [12]

Visitors may visit once or twice and may or may not join. Novices are new members, who typically keep to themselves at first until they have learned enough about the community and the other members. At this point, they become regulars. Leaders are member who have the time and energy to take on more official roles such as helping with the operation of the community. Elders are akin to subject matter experts: they are familiar with the professional theme and the community, and they have become respected sources of both subject matter knowledge and cultural knowledge.”

Bottom-up approach[edit]

Knowledge networking is not a top-down formal organization as a task force or project team would be. There is no one person “in charge” of the community, although there may be founding members.

Networks, by definition, connect everyone to everyone. Hierarchies by definition, do not; rather they create formal channels of communication and authority. Networks operate informally with few rules, they depend on trust.“[13]

“All communities are about connections between people, and these connections are often used to develop corporate yellow pages or an expertise location system. Though initially community based, such expertise locators can eventually be integrated to form a corporate wide yellow pages. Their contribution is important to organizational learning initiatives such as facilitating mentoring programs, identifying knowledge gaps, and providing both performance support and follow-up to formal training activities.“[14]

Personal values[edit]

The critical components of a community lie in the sharing of common work problems between members, a membership that sees the clear benefits of sharing knowledge among themselves and that has developed norms of trust reciprocity, and cooperation.

In other words, networks form because people need one another to reach common goals. Mutual help, assistance, and reciprocity are common to all functioning networks. Networks are not only self-organizing but also self-regulating.


Most knowledge networks contain:

  • Member-generated content (e.g. profiles, ratings, documents)
  • Member-to-member interaction (e.g. discussion forums)
  • An inner structure with a smaller core of very active members and many passive members around
  • Events (e.g. expert seminars)
  • Outreach (e.g. newsletters)

“Knowledge-sharing communities are not just about providing access to data and documents: they are about interconnecting the social network of people who produced the knowledge. One way to facilitate knowledge sharing is by making the knowledge visible. Knowledge sharing can be made more visible by making the interactions online visible in some way so that “I know that you know xyz” and “I know that you know that I know abc.” Visible interactions help create a mutual awareness, mutual accountability, and mutual engagement to knit group members more closely together.”[15]

Knowledge Management needs to view knowledge as something that is actively constructed in a social setting.[16]

Use cases for knowledge networking in a large software development department[edit]


  • Review: I have designed a part of a software - I want to speak with some expert to get a review, if my concept is the right solution.
    E.g.: architecture review, data model review...
  • Hint: I have to design a part of a software. It would take me about two weeks. I am sure one of my colleagues has already solved a similar problem and could give me a hint, tell me about his experiences and warn me about pitfalls. With these hints I can save much time.
    E.g.: Adapt an application for Chinese type set.
  • Done before: I have to install a new SW application which I never have done before. I can read all the manual but it will take me about two weeks to do this. I am sure there is some colleague who has done this before. Together we can do the job in 2 hours.
    E.g. installation of a web server, data base, test automatization tool...
  • Technology Scouting: I am a simple employee at my organization but I am convinced that a certain technology will become of high importance for our business. How can I convince my company that they should take care of this technology?

Project Manager/Head of Business Unit[edit]

  • Technology Transfer: The market requires to do the next project with a new technology. No team member has experience with this new technology. I need a just-in-time, customized training of my team members and an expert in this technology who will be part of the team and transfers his/her knowledge to the team.
    E.g.: first .NET-project of a team.
  • Risk Minimization: I have got a high-risk project of extremely high importance to the organization. The company has got the contract because some other company was not able to deliver within 1,5 years but we have to deliver within the next 6 month. I can read and hear about my project almost every week in newspapers and TV. The only chance to survive is to set up the project from the very beginning a good as possible. I need top-experts with experience in similarly scaled projects and they should start tomorrow but at latest on Monday.
  • Fire Brigade: I got in troubles with my project. Now I realize that the team was not as experienced in the technology as I expected. I need some top-expert who is able to find out a solution based on the actual status which works and satisfies the customer. If we still can deliver on time the customer should not even realize that we had troubles with the project.
  • View Condensed Insights: Every year we manage thousands of projects. I do not want to make mistakes again which other project leaders made. How can I get their condensed insights?
  • Soft skills for Distributed Projects: I am Project Leader and I am trained experienced in classical PM, but never did a distributed project with people from three countries. I like to profit from experiences at the organization so far, but just reading articles did not satisfy so far. I need somebody whom I trust and who will coach me during the important phases of the project (in particular before and during the beginning of the project).
  • Tender: I got a call for tender from the sales department yesterday. The deadline is end of the week. I need some reference projects our organization has done with this technology and an expert to review of my offer.
  • Affordable training in low cost countries: I am head of a low cost country. Nevertheless I need for my employees the same level of trainings as in the high-cost countries. I cannot afford to pay the high rate and travel costs of a headquarters trainer. If I take an external local trainer, I miss the company-specific parts of the training.
    E.G. Project Management Training
  • Training Concept: I want to set up a plan on who should attend what training - how do I know what abilities/technologies will be demanded by the market in the next 6-12 month, how do I know in which field the organization has the most significant lack of knowledge.
  • One offer to the customer: Multiple business units are offering services/solutions for a certain topic (e.g. IT security), but each only covering a certain aspect of the whole (e.g. access control via fingerprint, firewalls, etc.). How can we integrate all this in one offer to the customer?
  • Experience Exchange, extend field of application: We just finished a series of highly relevant and successful pilot projects with a new technology, we know that another business unit in a different division is doing the same... how can we connect? How can we work together at applying this technology on a broader basis in the whole organization?


  • Expert's Opinion: I am working at the customer's site and need urgently to find an expert which I can contact. I need his opinion on my current problem.

Central Functions, Technology Manager, Strategy Department[edit]

  • Know Who: I get a call from an customer who called our company and wants to know if we can help him in his field. I never have heard about the existence of this field before but I need to help him with some contact person.
  • Technology Breeding: I am responsible for the central technology management department: the budget is quite low and the number of relevant technologies is estimated to be between 700 and 1000. My job is to take care that new upcoming technologies are detected on time, evaluated if the are important for the business. If yes, the competence needs to be built up at the right people and technologies should effectively used in the projects. To do it alone is impossible. How can I involve all the thousands of experts within our organization to participate in this process?
  • Awareness Management: I have identified a topic which is important for the whole organization. How can a build up awareness for this topic at the management, project leaders and experts? A mail to all or a presentation in the board meeting is not enough.
  • Business relevance: I have identified a topic which might be important for the business of many business units. How do I know how relevant the topic is for their business.
  • Representing the company: I have to represent the company or at least my organization in some external committees. How do I get experts to back up me?
  • Forwarding Invitation: I receive an invitation to an exclusive technology event. I am not able to participate but it would make sense that one of our experts in this field should participate. How do I know, who is the right person?

Further reading[edit]

  • Dalkir, K. (2005) Knowledge management in theory and practice.
  • Probst, G. J. B. (2006) Wissen managen: wie Unternehmen ihre wertvollste Ressource optimal nutzen.
  • Savage C. M. (1996) 5th Generation Management: Cocreating through Virtual Enterprising, Dynamic Teaming, and Knowledge Networking.
  • Skyrme J. D. (1999) Knowledge Networking - Creating the Collaborative Enterprise.
  • Seufert, A., von Krogh, G., and Bach, A. (1999): Towards Knowledge Networking. Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 180-190.
  • Högberg, Ch. and Edvinsson. L.(1998): A design for futurizing knowledge networking. Journal of Knowledge Management, vol 2, no. 2, pp.81-92
  • Apostolou, D., Sakkas, N., and Mentzas, G. (1999): Knowledge Networking in Supply Chains: A Case Study in the Wood/Furniture Sector. Information-Knowledge-Systems Management archive vol. 1 , Issue 3,4, pp: 267 - 281, IOS Press Amsterdam, The Netherlands, ISSN:1389-1995.
  • Mansell, R.[Hrsg.] (2002) Networking knowledge for information societies, DUP Science, Delft.
  • Kögl, U. (2002) Knowledge Networking Master Thesis, Univ. Graz.
  • Heraud, J.-A. (2000) Is there a regional dimension of innovation-oriented knowledge networking? Proc. of the Fifth Regional Science and Technology Policy Research Symposium (RESTPOR), Kashikojima (Japan).
  • Hildreth P. M. , Kimble C. (2004) Knowledge Networks: Innovation Through Communities of Practice, ISBN-10: 159140200X, ISBN-13: 978-1591402008
  • Back A., Enkel E., von Krogh G. (2006): Knowledge Networks for Business Growth, ISBN-10: 3540330720, ISBN-13: 978-3540330721
  • Apostolou D., Kafentzis K., Mentzas G., Maas W. Knowledge Networking in Extended Enterprises
  • Roy M., Parent R., Desmarais L. (2003, Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada): Knowledge Networking: A Strategy to Improve Workplace Health & Safety Knowledge Transfer
  • Teigland, R. (2003), Knowledge Networking: Structure and Performance in Networks of Practice ISBN 91-973849-1-7


  1. ^ European Telework Online 1998
  2. ^ David J. Skyrme, 1999
  3. ^ Gilbert Probst, 2006
  4. ^ Marleen Huysman and Dirk deWit, 2002
  5. ^ David J. Skyrme, 1999
  6. ^ John Naisbitt: “Megatrends”, 1982
  7. ^ Charles Savage: The Fifth Generation Management, 1996
  8. ^ Kimiz Dalkir, 2005
  9. ^ Lave and Wenger, 1991
  10. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, Pickett, 2000
  11. ^ Seufert, von Krogh, and Bach, 1999; Adams and Freeman, 2000
  12. ^ Kim, 2000
  13. ^ Probst 2006, S. 149 ff.
  14. ^ Lamont, 2003
  15. ^ Dalkir 2005, 110 ff.
  16. ^ McDermott, 2000

See also[edit]

Alternative Definitions[edit]

A pragmatic definition in the enterprise context[edit]

Knowledge Networking:

Applying your knowledge outside your regular job description for a higher value of the company.

Same remarks:

  • Applying: if you apply your knowledge than this impacts that there exists also "the other end of the line": somebody who uses your knowledge. If you would write both in the definition, the definition would become more complicated but nothing really new would be added - exept the message that in an company environment it is as important to provide knowledge as it is to use the knowledge of others.
  • your: just for communication issues it is nicer to use the personal "you" than the anonymous "Applying...."
  • knowledge: distinguish between information and knowledge like it is done in the literature.
    The social constructivist perspective views knowledge as context dependent and thus as something that cannot be completely separated from “knowers” (Lave and Wenger, 1991).
  • outside your regular job description: the regular knowledge exchange, or let us call it teamwork, within a project team is not what we call knowledge networking, even if the team is geographically distributed. Knowledge networking starts if you help somebody else with your knowledge without beeing "forced by your boss" to do it (in other words if it is not part of your job description).
    The only exception: if you are one of the few who have knowledge networking as part of the job description than it is obvious that you do knowldege networking and do do not need this definition (this is why we call it a pragmatic definition, which fits for 99% but not for the 1% where it is obvious). E.g.: members of a Support Center or a Competence Center usually have knowledge networking in their job description.
  • for a higher value: this is the short version, a more pricise version would be: "adding more value to the company than if you would do in same time just what the job description asks for".
  • of the company: as mentioned, the definition is a definition within an enterprise context.
    If you extend your networking outside the company than nevertheless the business time you spend for these activities should add more value to your company than if you would have worked the same time just directly for the company.
    But also if you do the networking inside the company this implies that the management has educated the staff to be able to evaluate which task adds more value to the company than another. This is a cultural change as often the management does not trust their employees that they are able to decide this in a proper way. If they are right, than the time is ready now to empower them.

Definition from European Telework Online[edit]

The creation and development of knowledge through person-to-person networking, often augmented by online communications. Knowledge networking takes place in communities of practice, electronic communities and various forms of virtual organisation. [1]

Other Definition, Source Unknown[edit]

A bottom-up method of generating value through sharing knowledge in a large-scale community. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Heisss (talkcontribs) 14:48, 11 April 2008 (UTC)


A knowledge networking culture of an organization has a lot of impacts to different aspects of the business:


In face of change networked organizations learn faster than purely hierarchical ones. As long as the communication overhead required for networking activities is smaller than a certain amount, an organization with networking culture and structures performs better than a corresponding purely hierarchical organization:

  • Glatz, G., Ackerlauer, H., Heiss, M., and Damian D.: Impact of knowledge networking and organizational learning on the performance of organizations. Proceedings of the IEEE International Engineering Management Conference IEMC 2007, Texas, USA.

Innovation and Technology Management[edit]

The so-called Technology Breeding is capable of integrating the capacity of all engineers into its technology portfolio management process through the fostering of Communities of Practice (CoP) [2]. It represents an open process allowing all engineers the possibility of initiating their own CoP for a promising technology of their own choice. Driven by the evolutionary process - growth of the fittest - some of these technology communities develop into strong business branches, others die off and many remain on a readyto- start-level without stranded investments up to that point. As soon as the market is ready, the corresponding community is able to quickly expand and apply its technology:

  • Ackerlauer, H. Heiss, M.: Breeding Technologies Within Expert Networks as a Balanced Technology Management Method. WSEAS TRANSACTIONS ON BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS 2006, VOL 3; pp. 245-252, WSEAS Press, Greece 2006. ISSN 1109-9526
  • Heiss, M. and Jankowsky, J.: The Technology Tree Concept - an Evolutionary Approach to Technology Management in a Rapidly Changing Market. Proceedings of the IEEE International Engineering Management Conference (IEMC 2001), Albany, N.Y., Oktober 7-9, 2001, ISBN 0-7803-7260-3, pp. 37-43.

Requirements Communication[edit]

  • Mikulovic, V.; Heiss, M.; Herbsleb, J.D.: Practices and Supporting Structures for Mature Inquiry Culture in Distributed Software Development Projects. Proceedings of The IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering, 2006. ICGSE '06. Oct. 2006, pp.245 - 246
  • Mikulovic, V., and Heiss, M.: “How do I know what I have to do?” – The Role of the Inquiry Culture in Requirements Communication for Distributed Software Development Projects. Proceedings of the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering ICSE 2006, Shanghai, China, May 20-28, 2006.


  • Heiss, M.: Universitäre Ausbildung unter den Ansprüchen von Bildung und Employability. Österreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft, 10.3.2006 Baden bei Wien, pp.1-13.

Offshoring maturity or the maturity to handle geographically distributed projects[edit]

  • Lasser, S., Heiss M.: Collaboration Maturity and the Offshoring Cost Barrier: The Trade-Off between Flexibility in Team Composition and Cross-Site Communication Effort in Geographically Distributed Development Projects. Proceedings of the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC 2005); ISBN 0-7803-9028-8, Limerick, Ireland, 10-13 July 2005, Thread: Engineering Management, pp. 718-728.

Balanced Management[edit]

  • Heiss, M., Stöckl, S., and Hausknotz C.: The Bottom-Up/Top-Down-Pattern: An Organizational Pattern for a Balanced Management System. Proceedings of the IEEE International Engineering Management Conference (IEMC 2004), Singapure, October 2004.


  • Kubasa, G. and Heiss, M.: Distributed Face-to-Face Communication in Bottom-up Driven Technology Management – A Model for Optimizing Communication Topologies. Proceedings of the IEEE International Engineering Management Conference (IEMC 2002), Cambridge U.K., August 19-20, 2002, ISBN 0-7803-7385-5, pp. 234-238.


  • Lutz, B.: Training for Global Software Development in an

International “Learning Network”. Proceedings of the Second IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering; ISBN 0-7695-2920-8

Munich, Germany, August 27-30, 2007: pp. 140-147.