Experiential Learning and Knowledge Management

Experiential Learning and Knowledge Management

The purpose of experimental learning is to get through experience. One of the first and most basic steps to raising the effect of experiential learning is to develop strong skills and knowledge based on practice.

According to theoretical interpretation “experiential learning can be described as a process by which the experience of the learner is reflected upon, and from this emerge new insights or learning” (What is Experiential Learning? 2005). Recent years, the concept of experiential learning is widely accepted by different fields of studies including knowledge management. Knowledge management is as much if not more concerned with people and how they acquire, exchange and disseminate knowledge.

“Less contrived forms of experiential learning (including accidental or unintentional learning) are usually described in more everyday language such as ‘learning from experience’ or ‘learning through experience” (Experiential learning Cycles, 2004).That is why experiential learning has become an important area for Knowledge management practitioners, who are in a strong position to exert influence in this aspect of people management. Experiential learning in KM can benefited in any process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever it resides, to enhance learning and perfor¬mance in organizations. The relations between experiential learning nad KM is that, according to Loermans (2002), “The inclusion of “wherever it resides” is taken to include tacit knowledge (that residing in people’s heads as opposed to explicit knowledge which is codified and documented)”. It is important to note that according to Houle (1980) another type of experiential learning is “education that occurs as a direct participation in the events of life” (Houle 1980: 221, cited Experiential Learning, 2002). In the light of this experiential learning is viewed as a means of creating knowledge and as a means which help to perfect knowledge. Knowledge manage¬ment is more about people. What is also required is another aspect of organizational capital: trust. People will not be willing to share knowledge with those whom they do not trust, but KM helps to reduce this risk to a minimum, and in some cases even encourage employees to be more active and participate in current affaires (Barth, 2000, p.23).

Another benefit of KM is possibility to inhibit knowledge sharing in the culture of the company. The norm may be for people to keep knowledge to themselves as much as they can because ‘knowledge is power’. An open culture will encourage people to share their ideas and knowledge. KM helps to develop an open culture in which the values and norms emphasize the importance of sharing knowledge. On the other hand it promotes a climate of commitment and trust. As the most important KM can help to advise on the design and development of organizations which facilitate knowl¬edge sharing through networks and communities of practice (groups of people who share common concerns about aspects of their work), and teamwork. In addition, it advises on resourcing policies and provide resourcing services which ensure that valued employees who can contribute to knowledge creation and sharing are attracted and retained. Advise on methods of motivating people to share knowledge and rewarding those who do so are also possible through KM

In his work, David Kolb divides the process of experiential learning into four parts: watching; thinking; feeling; doing (muscle) (Kolb, 1983, p. 24).

Taking into account operational performance, KM helps in the development of performance management processes which focus and the development and sharing of knowledge of a particular type for a particular group of employees. It also sustains the redevelopment processes of organizational and individual learning which generate and assist in disseminating knowledge.

KM contributes to enhancing knowledge management processes attracting and retaining people with the required skills and abilities, including those who are likely to exhibit the behaviours needed in a knowledge-sharing (Eisenhart, 2001, p.48). This means devising competency frameworks for recruitment and development purposes which include knowledge-sharing through practice and an example as a key behaviour. Such a competency could be defined as the disposition to share knowledge fully and will¬ingly with other members of the community.

Experimental Learning within KM framework helps to ensure that the knowledge generated by such developments is spread around the business as widely as possible to those who might put it to good use. Experimental Learning within KM framework ensures that knowledge is recorded and appropriately used by employees. KM experts collaborate by providing means for tacit knowledge to be collected and, where feasible, codified. The key benefit is the practical knowledge acquired through interaction between people. This constitutes the social capital of an organization, i.e. the network of relationships constitute a valuable resource for the conduct of organizational affairs. Organizational networks can be particularly important in ensuring that knowledge is shared.

In his article Garner (2001) underlines that: “the effectiveness of CKM frameworks is thus seen to lie in the motivational value of context-mediated, spreading activation mechanisms for experiential learning, and in the associated meta-knowledge acquisition strategies”. So, experiential learning gives much attention is paid to the processes (social, technological and organizational) through which knowledge combines and interacts in different ways. Bear in mind the facts mentioned above it is possible to say that emotional experiential learning programs and initiatives KM have a high profile. Today’s organizations need a strong skilful workforce which can be achieved through experiential learning programs. Without the direct participation and support of an experiential learning practices, power cannot be pushed to its full potential. KM requires many of the characteristics common to all employees, but also requires special abilities which are acquired with the help of experiential learning and plays an important role in today’s rapidly changing environment.