What is a knowledge product?

The concept of a Knowledge Product is a common one in the development sector, and is used as a label for many types of document.  But what makes a product a “knowledge product”?

Many organisations working in the development sector create what they call “Knowledge Products”. The African Development bank, for example, has a whole suite of economic briefs, working papers and economic reports published under the heading of “knowledge products”. These are written by specialists in the Bank, for the education or reference of future Bank programs and for wider society. The main mechanism of “knowledge transfer” regarding these products is “dissemination” – publishing reports to target audiences, often on web-hosted repositories.

Other organisations are looking at the same topic, and wondering if Knowledge Products could be defined as a project output, for example.

But what does the “Knowledge” in the term mean? Are these reports “products of knowledge” or are they “products that aim to transfer knowledge to the user”?

If we are to use knowledge products as a component of a KM Framework, then surely they must follow the second definition, not the first?

Dr. Serafin Talisayon, in his lecture notes, suggests that

A knowledge product is something that enables effective action by an intended user, client or stakeholder of a government agency or a non- government or development organization.  


This is the second definition. A Knowledge Product must carry knowledge, and must enable action by the reader (knowledge is, after all, the ability to take effective action).  It must be actionable.

  • Therefore a project report is not a knowledge product. Even if it contains a detailed history of the project, the reader does not know whether to copy this history or not. 
  • A lesson learned report IS a knowledge product, providing the lessons  
  • An economic summary of a region is arguably not a knowledge project. One could read the report, but still not know what action to take. 
  • A summary of best practice, or recommended practice, is a knowledge product, provided that the description of the best practice is detailed enough, and provides enough contextual background, that people can act on it in their own context.  

We can see in this list from ITAD several knowledge products – lessons, findings, insights. The list quoted above from the African Development Bank seemed to have a looser definition of Knowledge Product, mixing in a whole variety of reports – lessons reports mixed with briefs and working papers.
If we are to follow Dr Talisayon’s definition, then writing Knowledge Products requires a lot of care if they are to be usable and used. To quote this blog from the World Bank,

KM should be conceived less as a purely technical information-based area and more as a communication and behaviour-change area … Knowledge producers need to package the product in a way that can be easily applied, while the users need to be “persuaded” to conceive knowledge as a practical tool that can be applied in their field.

If we are to translate the concept of Knowledge products from the Development sector to the Industrial sector, we would do well to bear this in mind, and use the term “Knowledge Products” only for items that are expressly written to convey knowledge, with the user in mind.

So a set of project reports on a website is not a collection of knowledge products. A wiki containing guidance, good practice and lessons is a knowledge product.  In an ideal world, every project should produce knowledge products which are used to grow and evolve the knowledge base in the organisation.

Knowledge products, if treated the right way, can be a core component of a KM Framework. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Knowledge Assets – the "Knowledge First" format

The way we write reports, especially scientific reports, is not the way we should write Knowledge Assets in a Wiki.

Image from MaxPixel

I am consulting with a firm which is moving much of its current knowledge into wiki format, on order to take it out of the document library and to turn it into a resource that is in the public domain, searchable, hyperlinked, and constantly updated.

The problem is that many of the knowledge owners are scientists, and their default knowledge format is very much based on scientific reports. Many of their first-attempt wiki pages are composed as follows:
  • List of projects:
    • Project title
    • Project outline
    • Project objectives
    • Project results
    • Project conclusions
The conclusions are where the knowledge is found, and presenting it in this way means that the reader must scroll to the bottom of the page every time to find the knowledge, and that the reader must read every project to get a full picture. Also the knowledge is not updateable, as it is linkedin every case to a project.
We are now moving the content into a “Knowledge First” structure, as follows:
  • Here is what we currently know about this topic (knowledge summary or conclusions);
  • This knowledge is based on the following projects:
    • Link to first project, with full details;
    • Link to second project, with full details etc;
  • Here are the things we still don’t know, abut are trying to find out.
The links to projects could be hyperlinks to sections further down the page, to separate project summary pages, or even to the project reports in the document management system.

This less like the way knowledge is presented in scientific reports, and more like the way it is presented in newspapers; starting with the headline, then the introductory paragraph which summarises the whole story, and then “read on for more detail”. It is a reader-driven format, aiming to give the reader what they need to know in the most efficient way.

By presenting the material in this way, the reader can find the knowledge quickly, and then zoom in to the level of knowledge they need.  Also any update to the knowledge happens at the top of the page, in clear view, and any old, invalid conclusions can be overwritten.

Format your knowledge assets and wiki pages with the user in mind, and think “Newspaper format” rather then “Scientific Report”.

View Original Source Here.