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Knowledge Engineering - Book Review

1 June 2018
Dr. Moria Levy

"Knowledge Engineering: Process Paradigm" is a book authored by Hamed Fazlollahtabar from Iran, in collaboration with other researchers for each chapter. It was published in 2018 and comprises a collection of articles. While it aims to cater to academic and business audiences, the book's academic tone may not align with its practical conclusions, which hold greater relevance for the business world. Below is a summary of the key findings, specifically from a business perspective, as reflected in the book's topics:

Knowledge Development - Impact of Knowledge Management Processes on Innovation:
  • Emphasizing the power of organizational knowledge.

  • Examining the influence of internal and external knowledge.

  • Evaluating the impact of dynamic, knowledge-based capabilities.

  • They are exploring learning within the context of parent companies and their subsidiaries.

  • Cultivating organizational learning capability.

Knowledge Sharing:
  • Analyzing knowledge sharing within the context of tax collection systems.

  • Investigating the impact of relationships between organizational functions on knowledge sharing.

  • Assessing the influence of organizational structure and culture on knowledge sharing.

Knowledge Preservation:
  • Strategies for retaining organizational knowledge.

  • Methods for knowledge extraction and construction.

The book adopts an industry and management-oriented approach, incorporating numerous measurements that may be less conventional in knowledge management. It draws on experiences from a variety of organizations, primarily in China. It is a valuable read, offering insights and lessons that are, in part, undeniably non-trivial.

Knowledge Development - Impact of Knowledge Management Processes on Innovation

Emphasizing the power of organizational knowledge

Understanding that knowledge development has an impact on organizational innovation is straightforward. However, a fascinating question arises: what factors influence the development of knowledge that, in turn, affects innovation?

An analysis of hundreds of organizations in Russia, Finland, and China (hundreds in each category) reveals that the influence operates on multiple levels, with knowledge strength being the primary determinant. Knowledge strength can be defined as the extent to which knowledge processes are conducted, and knowledge is applied. Essentially, it quantifies the level of organizational knowledge management (KM).

The study found that knowledge intensity positively affects several aspects, including the level of documentation, the extent of knowledge sharing, the monthly knowledge acquisition rate, and the level of knowledge development within the organization. Among these, it significantly influences two key factors: the extent of sharing and the level of knowledge development.

Moreover, it was determined that the level of documentation, knowledge sharing, and monthly knowledge acquisition contribute positively to knowledge development. Ultimately, the most influential factor driving growth is knowledge development.

Examining the influence of internal and external knowledge

Expanding on the previous research, this examination delves into the influence of various knowledge-related factors on an organization's innovation. As expected, the research underscores the positive impact of most knowledge processes on growth.

Here are the key takeaways:

1.The complexity and ambiguity of knowledge play a crucial role in technological innovation. Interestingly, even though complex and ambiguous knowledge is more challenging to transfer within an organization, it fosters a more significant potential for innovative solutions when problem-solving or decision-making is required. Complexity and clarity in knowledge help generate creative possibilities.

2. An organization's capacity to absorb new knowledge (acquiring, assimilating, and effectively using it) is a paramount indicator of its innovative potential. Several noteworthy connections stand out about innovation:

  • The combination of acquiring valuable knowledge and effective assimilation, alongside a low level of tacit knowledge, significantly enhances innovation performance.

  • Higher implementation and reduced complexity lead to better innovation performance.

  • Elevating knowledge levels and utilization while minimizing significance and complexity translates to improved innovation performance.

Section A pertains to the depletion of internal knowledge, while Section B focuses on external knowledge. Combining both aspects creates an optimal formula for innovation.

Evaluating the impact of dynamic, knowledge-based capabilities

Dynamic capability plays a pivotal role in driving innovation. This capability is defined as the organization's proficiency in integrating, constructing, and adapting both internal and external resources to address evolving needs and challenges. Dynamic competence is rooted in acquisition, creation, and integration skills. Thus, active knowledge-based ability encompasses the following components:

  • Knowledge acquisition capability (external)

  • Knowledge generation capability (internal)

  • Knowledge combination capability

The study explored the impact of factors like the absence of duplication, trust, joint problem-solving ability, and managerial commitment on these elements and their subsequent effect on innovation. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. The absence of duplication does not influence the capabilities above.

  2. Diversity, the capacity for joint problem-solving, and commitment impact the ability to acquire knowledge.

  3. Trust and the ability to collaborate in problem-solving influence the organization's capacity to generate knowledge.

  4. The acquisition of external knowledge impacts the ability to integrate knowledge, and these, in combination, affect the creation of new organizational knowledge.

  5. The creation of new organizational knowledge significantly influences innovation.



Exploring learning within the context of parent companies and their subsidiaries

Learning between parent companies and subsidiaries significantly differs from learning among peer companies.

A fundamental premise within any organization is the value of learning from subsidiaries. This holds whether companies have expanded their operations into different countries, necessitating field-based learning, or in scenarios involving acquisitions and mergers, leading to companies situated in various global locations with valuable insights to offer. Indeed, evidence suggests that global learning originates from the knowledge acquired from subsidiaries, making it a pivotal source of learning. However, it is essential to note that such learning is not a straightforward process due to the following reasons:

  1. Parent companies tend to be hesitant to grant subsidiaries the autonomy to become independent entities, often prioritizing the advancement of the organizational agenda.

  2. Subsidiaries often need help with attempting to share knowledge, hindering organizational learning. This challenge arises from the need for formal communication channels and sharing mechanisms among them.

It is evident that a subsidiary's ability to transmit knowledge to the parent company primarily depends on the following factors:

  • The diversity of experiences and expertise.

  • First-order independence (about operational and managerial processes).

  • Second-order independence (about development and marketing processes).

  • The extent of personnel exchanges between the companies, including both subsidiaries and the parent company.

  • Effective communication and the degree of recognition afforded to the subsidiary.

Furthermore, a subsidiary's capability to disseminate knowledge to its peer subsidiaries depends on its seniority, experience, and the level of recognition it receives.

Cultivating organizational learning capability

The study investigates the dimensions that impact an organization's learning abilities. These dimensions encompass:

  1. Risk-taking – the willingness to embrace diversity, uncertainty, and errors.

  2. Engagement with the external environment of the organization.

  3. Discourse and communication within the organization.

  4. Employee involvement in decision-making processes.

  5. Management's commitment to learning.

  6. A systemic perspective – the capacity to unite individuals under a common organizational identity and shared objectives.

  7. Openness and the opportunity for experimentation.

  8. Knowledge exchange among employees and the ability to integrate knowledge into processes.

  9. Teamwork.

  10. Demonstrating the organization's mission and objectives tangibly to employees.

The study presents various metrics for each of these dimensions, which can serve as valuable tools for organizations seeking to assess themselves and enhance their learning capabilities. The study observes that in most organizations, capabilities tend to align with particular dimensions, as indicated by examining index levels for each dimension. Few organizations exhibit strong performance across all dimensions; instead, some excel in specific dimensions while performing less optimally in others.

Knowledge Sharing

Analyzing knowledge sharing within the context of tax collection systems

The premise of this study is that, aside from the tax collection mechanism itself, one of the two most influential factors contributing to effective tax collection is the extent of positive knowledge sharing with the public regarding taxes and the collection process. In developed countries, a significant portion of income is derived from taxes, serving as a vital source that funds various public expenditures. Consequently, research that can shed light on how tax collection can be enhanced to bolster a country's sources of growth and available resources holds great importance. Currently, five interrelated categories have been identified as impacting tax collection:

  1. The perceived fairness of tax payments: People tend to believe that higher-income people bear a more significant public responsibility for tax payments. This extends to the public's perception of fairness in tax collection methods and sources.

  2. The public's perception of the correlation between the amount of tax paid and the level of tax-based services they receive.

  3. Comprehension of the tax system: The public's understanding that taxes are meant to serve their interests.

  4. Cultural aspects: The cultural significance of tax payment, the importance of taxation, the notion that a state or authority cannot function without tax revenue, and its actual contribution.

  5. Trust the administration's ability to utilize the funds it receives from tax collection effectively.

The study's conclusion emphasizes that disseminating knowledge to the public regarding these factors can enhance the tax collection system, fostering increased resources and promoting growth for each governing authority and government.

Investigating the impact of relationships between organizational functions on knowledge sharing

The chapter begins by delving into the organizational, team, and individual factors that influence the extent of knowledge sharing. Among these factors, the researcher emphasizes scrutinizing the impact of the interconnections between various organizational functions on the exchange of knowledge within these functions. The study assesses these relationships from three perspectives:

  1. The breadth of relationships: How closely each function is connected to other functions.

  2. The strength of relationships.

  3. The effectiveness of relationships.

The study's findings indicate that initiatives to strengthen connections between different organizational functions lead to a sustained improvement in knowledge sharing.ֿ

Assessing the influence of organizational structure and culture on knowledge sharing

This study investigates the influence of organizational structural and cultural factors on knowledge management, yielding several noteworthy findings, some of which are pretty significant:

Structural Aspects:

  • The level of centralization within an organization correlates inversely with knowledge sharing; more excellent centralization results in reduced knowledge sharing.

  • The complexity and ambiguity of knowledge in the organization correspond inversely with knowledge sharing; more complex and ambiguous knowledge leads to decreased sharing.

  • A higher degree of formality in organizational conduct is associated with lower levels of knowledge sharing.

Cultural and Organizational Aspects:

  • Increased teamwork within organizations is linked to greater knowledge sharing.

  • When organizations prioritize performance measurement, knowledge sharing tends to decrease.

  • Effective communication within the organization fosters greater knowledge sharing.

  • Organizations that emphasize innovation experience expanded knowledge sharing.

  • Investment in incentives and rewards by organizations encourages increased knowledge sharing.

  • When employees have more confidence in their teams, knowledge sharing is enhanced.

The relative importance of these parameters in influencing knowledge management within the organization is of particular interest. The findings rank these factors in terms of significance, with the most important listed first, along with their respective importance levels:

  1. Teamwork (6.39)

  2. Centralization (5.73)

  3. Innovation (5.66)

  4. Team Confidence (5.37)

  5. Incentive System (5.16)

  6. Telecommunications (5.06)

  7. Formality (4.93)

  8. Complexity (4.43)

  9. Performance Evaluation Method (2.27).

These findings provide valuable insights into organizational practices that support and enhance knowledge sharing.

Knowledge Preservation

Strategies for retaining organizational knowledge

The article on Knowledge Conservation introduces the concept of Levy (yes, it's me, ML) and discusses its potential applications. It deviates from classical literature, which primarily focuses on identifying experts to preserve their knowledge, often paying attention to the preservation of knowledge itself. This article concentrates explicitly on the conservation phase within the three overarching stages of prevention (through enhanced knowledge management), conservation (risk management towards knowledge loss), and rehabilitation.

Once the decision to use knowledge is made, there are three key stages:

  1. Demarcation – defining the contents.

  2. Knowledge extraction.

  3. Reintegration of knowledge into the work environment.

The essential element in this process is adopting a structured approach and generating structured outcomes. The article references various tools for knowledge extraction (based on Hofer-Alfas):

  • A list of critical workflows.

  • An organizational business relationship map of processes.

  • Profiles for each business process.

  • A lessons-learned table.

In addition to these tools, organizing existing document contents, videos, and other materials effectively is crucial.

Methods for knowledge extraction and construction

The core premise of this article lies in recognizing that a substantial portion of organizational knowledge is implicit. The article presents tools for extracting and organizing knowledge. The knowledge extraction process is underpinned by a set of structured questions, resulting in a standardized framework that encompasses:

  • Event classification

  • Definition

  • Event description

  • Inherent knowledge components: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

  • Connections to related documents and other knowledge items

Various sources contribute to this knowledge acquisition, including:

  • Existing organizational knowledge

  • Interviews with knowledgeable employees

  • Feedback from experts

Knowledge extraction considers comments, feedback, problem-solving, and interconnections, prioritizing the ease of extraction and the significance of the knowledge. The article introduces a well-structured set of algorithms for knowledge extraction, organization, and dissemination on a digital platform.

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