Knowledge Management can be a tough idea to sell, and an even harder one to implement.

From the January-February 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, in their article “Managing Your Mission-Critical Knowledge,” authors Martin Ihrig and Ian MacMillan describe a reasonably simple model for mapping your mission-critical knowledge assets, and exploring new ways to use them. They argue that you must first identify the key dimensions of your company’s competitive performance and then determine the knowledge assets that underpin them.

Certainly there is no shortage of conceptual models and frameworks to describe Knowledge Management, but this one uses an elegant method, relying on a straightforward, two-dimensional plot, upon which you map your mission critical knowledge assets, i.e., those knowledge assets that will drive growth for your business.

To build the model, they define two axes: the “Y” axis, representing Unstructured vs. Structured knowledge (i.e., tacit vs. explicit), and the “X” axis, representing Undiffused vs. Diffused (i.e., proprietary vs. widespread) knowledge. You then identify and map your mission critical knowledge assets into the two-dimensional space. Once done, you can interpret the map and look for new opportunities to “move” your existing knowledge assets around the map to enhance your company’s competitive performance and growth into the future. The article goes on to give several examples of the various types of movement up and down both the “Y” and “X” axes.

It’s an interesting approach to solving a common and complex problem.

You can go to the HBR website to read the article, and to order a reprint. And you can contact me via email at to learn more or get help with this mapping exercise in your own organization.