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Editor’s Note: Payame Noor University, established in 1987, is a long-distance mega university in Iran. Its name means "The message of Light" in Persian. This study has particular significance for organizational management, training and succession, and for organizational changes resulting from retirement or loss of skilled personnel.


Knowledge Management Cycle:
A Case Study at Institute of Management Research & Education (IMRE)

Hassan Darvish, Saeed Kharaghani, Minoo Selseleh


In the uncertain environment of today's organizations, change is an indispensable quality, and success requires the knowledge management cycle to be properly implemented. The 'knowledge' competitive advantage will be reflected it in their goods and services.

In this article, status of the knowledge management cycle is studied and a model is introduced for knowledge management in companies. Nonaka's five-loops model for the knowledge management cycle (knowledge creation, knowledge organizing, knowledge sharing, knowledge applying loops) is used and five research question is examined.

The results in this study indicate that IMRE scores highest in the loop of knowledge creation and lowest in the loop of knowledge organizing. These findings can be applied for improvement of loops and better correlation among them.

Keywords: knowledge management, knowledge management cycle, knowledge creation, knowledge organizing, knowledge sharing, knowledge applying loops.


Knowledge management is a movement to upgrade a company’s abilities, help it to preserve competitive potential, and reflect its knowledge in goods and services. On the other hand, through knowledge management, the knowledge fund is reserved and not lost by employee turnover (Nonaka, 1991, p.96).

The status of knowledge management in organizations reveals that they act poorly in the loops of knowledge management cycle: they do not value knowledge creation, easily lose the knowledge they already own, forbid knowledge sharing, and do not invest in knowledge. And most important, because of lack of proper knowledge organizing, they are not aware of what they already know (Polani, 1966, p14).

How is knowledge defined? What are the components of its loops, including creation, organizing, sharing, and applying? In which way are they correlated? Next in this article, is a review of the literature and research methodology. The data is analyzed and conclusions are presented.

Literature Review

In this section, the knowledge management cycle is examined and definitions are presented for knowledge, knowledge management, and the knowledge management cycle.

Knowledge and different aspects of knowledge

Davenport and Prusak (2000) define knowledge as: the dynamic and smooth flow of specialized experiences, values, and insights. In organizations, knowledge is hidden in documents, reports, files, procedures, norms and even values. Attempts to grasping hidden organizational knowledge may achieve better competitive advantage.

Yale Rumer defines knowledge as an endless source of power which, through application, increases in volume and depth. (www.moesmea.gov.tw)

Knowledge is a human capacity. What exists in files, documents, or videos, is not by itself knowledge. It is organizing, sharing, and applying, that turns information into organizational knowledge. Knowledge creation is very time-consuming; through proper organizing, it can easily be shared. It should be noted that this knowledge is useless unless applied by members of the organization (Our Competitive Future- building a knowledge driven economy).

Drucker (1999) introduced explicit information and knowledge as a resource for organization and Senge (1994) pointed to learning organization, which is the cultural dimension of knowledge management (Drucker, 1995, p. 238).

To Nonaka (1994), in every company there are two kinds of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge consists of one's mental models, beliefs and opinions, and is rare, irreplaceable, inimitable, and precious. Knowledge sharing changes tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is a kind of knowledge which can be defined and shared easily through information technology.

According to Subi, every kind of knowledge is either tacit, or has its roots in tacit knowledge. He believes as well that tacit and explicit knowledge complete each other.

Mac Loop (1994), classifies knowledge into six types: practical knowledge, mental knowledge, amusement knowledge, abstract knowledge, and ordinary knowledge.

Ghashal (1995) considers three types for knowledge: practical, experience-based, and theorical knowledge. Rale (1994) believes knowledge to be procedure knowledge, and know how knowledge (Jashapara, 2004, p. 158).

The Emergence of Knowledge Revolution to Drucker

To Drucker, the meaning of knowledge radically changed in 1700, which itself led to birth and emergence of four revolutions: the industrial revolution (1770-1880), productivity revolution (1881-1960), management revolution (1960-1995) and during the 1990's, simultaneous impacts of the Internet and Digital revolutions, led to emergence of fourth revolution which is the knowledge revolution (1995-on-going). It was through this last revolution that companies became aware of the importance of "becoming aware of what they know". Companies grasp this fact that without proper knowledge management, knowledge utilization would be impossible. And before knowledge documentation, and proper organizing, companies were not able to become aware of their knowledge gap.

Knowledge Management Definitions

  •     knowledge management is methods, tools and techniques by which knowledge may be created and shared. This knowledge is a capital through which profitability and productivity is achieved, and better goods and services concerning quality are presented.

  •      knowledge management is sharing what we know with others. www.dod.mil/learn/knowledgemanconcept.htm.

  • §  knowledge management is the ability to acquire, record and access knowledge, for gaining competitive advantage.

  •      Swan et al (1999) define knowledge management as every activity of knowledge creating, sharing, and applying for the purpose of better learning and improved performance (Jashapara, 2004, p. 12).

  •      Vite (2000) believes that knowledge management is to acquire right knowledge, from right context, in the right time (Our Competitive Future- building a knowledge driven economy)

  •      Jashapara defines knowledge management in the form of a four-looped process as: effective learning process blended in creation, organizing, sharing (both tacit and explicit) and applying knowledge, which leads to upgrade of organizational intellectual capitals and performance improvement (see Figure 1).

Figure1: Four-looped Knowledge Management Cycle
(Jashapara, 2004, p. 12)

1. Knowledge Creating

Knowledge creating is an endless process which includes creating novel ideas, grasping new paradigms, and combining isolated principles for establishing new processes. Libraries and Departments for Documents are central resources for knowledge creating (Nazari, 1382, pp. 262-263).

2. Knowledge Organizing

This loop of knowledge management cycle refers to storing, recording, and preserving knowledge in formats and frames which let other employees regain it. In fact, knowledge organizing is prerequisite to knowledge sharing. In other words recording knowledge within folders and intranets, provides capacity for knowledge sharing (Radring,2003,pp178-189).

3. Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge sharing is the mutual knowledge flowing and scattering among people and mechanical and non mechanical bases for knowledge. In fact, 90% of the knowledge management success depends on right knowledge sharing. In other words, the effectiveness of knowledge management cycle relies on the abilities of people for knowledge sharing. It should be noted here that culture has a significant role for a fruitful sharing of knowledge. The establishment of a culture where "sharing knowledge is power instead of knowledge is power", has a great influence on the success of knowledge sharing in knowledge management cycle (Radring, 2003, pp. 160).

4. Knowledge Applying

This refers to application of knowledge shared, without any bias or prejudice against the one who is the source of that knowledge. This loop refers to blending of knowledge with action and its emergence in company's goods or services (Kwakman, 2004, p. 150).

Research Topic Definition

Institute of Management Research and Education (IMRE) is affiliated with the ministry of energy founded in 1994 with the mission of training and educating managers who are responsible for critical and important duties of the ministry. The vital role of the ministry of energy in Iran's industrial and economic development and the role of its managers in meeting these goals, reveal the critical importance of IMRE in the ministry of energy. The main branches of IMRE's activities are long term courses, seminars, work-shops, development and promotion courses which are designed and executed according to the training needs of the water and power industry.

In this research, the state of knowledge management cycle is examined through the four-looped model, and suggestions based on the conclusions are presented.

Importance and Necessity of Research

Concerning the importance of knowledge management and its benefits and advantages in the companies, this research centered on the survey of knowledge management cycle in a pioneer company (as a sample), that is IMRE. Then suggestions based on gained results presented in order for improvements. Furthermore the model applied in this research can be used as a framework for knowledge management cycle survey in other organizations.

As this research helps to know more about the knowledge management cycle, its loops, and other knowledge management related topics at IMRE, so it has cognitive functions. And as this research can be used for introducing knowledge management cycle, its loops, and benefits in other companies, it possesses applied functions as well.

Novelty of topic of research in Iran's companies and her interest in the field of knowledge management, led the author to perform the research.

Research Questions

Research questions in this research concerning the expected results can be divided into two parts: first establishment of knowledge management through complete survey of the population, and second the study of research literature in order to getting acquainted with and then master the new fields of knowledge. The questions examined in the statistical society are as below:

1.      What is the status of the knowledge creating loop at IMRE?

2.      What is the status of the knowledge organizing loop at IMRE?

3.      What is the status of the knowledge sharing loop at IMRE?

4.      What is the status of the knowledge applying loop at IMRE?

Research Analysis Model

Concepts should have empirical indicators to be applicable. Concepts are only tools for quick understanding of issues. They are abstract summaries of behaviors and attitudes. Conceptualization is more than a mere definition or presenting some series of technical words. Its main objective is to make it easier to understand a real object. Therefore, in conceptualization, not all aspects of reality are taken into consideration. Instead, its main and critical aspects are presented. The first step is to determine its dimensions. The next step is defining indicators through which one can measure dimensions of a concept. In most cases in social sciences, concepts and their dimensions are not measured by their observable signs (Rymon & Campenhood, 1999). The analysis model of research is presented as table 1.

Table 1
The Analysis Model of Research



Indicator making

Knowledge creating

Enthusiasm to upgrade personal knowledge, enjoying monetary benefits for acquiring more knowledge, personal tendency for benefiting learning opportunities, having a system for training employees, personal tendencies towards continuous learning, awareness of company about its best experts in each field, sensitivity towards attracting and preserving knowledge-based employees, the consensus of knowledge- based employees about company's HRM policies, employees' personal investment on learning, the degree of which higher management motivates employee for creating knowledge.

How much you are worry about upgrading your knowledge in the future? To what extent does more knowledge means more monetary benefits in your organization? How much are you personally inclined to benefit from learning opportunities? Is there any systematic trend for training employees? How much do you exploit from learning centers (seminars, conferences) for upgrading your daily learning? How much is continuous learning a priority for you? How much the management does know his best experts in the organization? How much is preserving knowledge-based employees a priority for the higher management? How much does the higher management provide learning opportunities for employees? Reflecting your knowledge in the duties, how much does effect on your receipts? How much are the holders of strategic knowledge satisfied in your organization? How much the benefits of being knowledgeable motivate you to acquire more knowledge? How much more knowledge in your organization does mean just more hard work? How much more benefits resulting from knowledge, motivates you to acquire more knowledge? How mush is preserving knowledge-based employees a priority and systematic in your organization? How much do you invest on your knowledge upgrade? To what extent you are proud of yourself for presenting a scientific article? To what extent you are proud of yourself for translating a scientific article from a foreign language to your mother tongue?

Knowledge organizing

Continuous review of personal experience (employees), the degree of recording personal experience, distinguishing information gaps, personal knowledge organizing, attempt for classifying individual knowledge, the accessibility of people to knowledge resources.

To what extent can you precisely describe what you've learned? How much do you record whatever you have acquired as knowledge? How much do you review your experiences for learning more? To what extent is your received information is incomplete? To what extent is your information accessible to your colleagues? How much are information gaps known at your organization? How much are you obliged to review a thick volume of information to reach your needed knowledge? To what extent do you consider your duty to organize your knowledge? Is there any information system at your company for organizing knowledge? To what extent do you receive your needed information exactly when needed? How much are aware about the knowledge resources at your company?

Knowledge sharing

Management encouragement knowledge sharing, accordance of information systems with right knowledge sharing, strong culture for knowledge sharing, in time announcement to employee about new knowledge sources (on side of librarians), flow knowledge sharing among functional divisions, a powerful internet network, the status of knowledge sharing from top to down(of organization), the status of knowledge sharing from down to top (of organization).

When employees need information, to what extent do they receive it in time? How much does higher management does motivate employees to share knowledge? How much automation system is suitable for knowledge sharing? to what extent is knowledge sharing admired by majority of employees? How much do librarians distribute needed information? To what extent does the continuous flow of knowledge sharing among functional divisions exist? How much the flow of knowledge from top to down (management to employees) is appropriate? How much the flow of knowledge from down to top (employees to management) is appropriate? To what extent needed information about employees is available to him? How much the internet status is appropriate for knowledge sharing? To what extent does the higher management provide the opportunity for others to make use from your created knowledge?



Indicator making

Knowledge applying

Personal enthusiasm for knowledge application, the degree of personal learning applied from training courses, a strong culture applying knowledge, the existence of systematic processes for using individual knowledge in organization, the degree of knowledge interference in goods and services, employee desire for making activities knowledge- based, management enthusiasm for applying knowledge by employees, benefiting the experiences of projects(on the part of organizations)

 How much do you ask yourself, ' how can I apply what I've learned? To what extent are you anxious about putting your knowledge into action? To what extent do you apply what you've learned from training courses? How much there is preference for knowledge application? To what extent are systematic trends applied to organizational knowledge? How much do you reflect your knowledge in your work? To what extent is organizational knowledge and competencies reflected in products and services? To what extent is there a system to apply knowledge? Are employees inclined to make their jobs more knowledge-based? How much does higher management try to apply what has been learned from projects?


Research Method

The method used in this research is the survey method. It begins with a question about the present status of the knowledge management cycle. In order to answer this question, an exploratory study was performed using various resources. The research theoretical framework is based on Jashapara's model. Then questionnaire which is the main tool of researcher was designed based on theoretical studies, doing a pretest, and final test. The data was analyzed and answers to the research questions presented.

Information Gathering Method

The information gathering method in this research is as below:

§  Library research for specialized books and publications; internet searches (information websites)
        to determine other researchers' attitudes, theories, hypotheses and findings.

§  Observations, documents surveys, and interviews with the managers and experts.

§  Questionnaire as the main tool for collecting information

The Questionnaire Distribution

The IMRE employees (office employee with diploma, experts, supervisors, middle and top managers, and faculty members) are the members of statistical population of this research. For this purpose 55 questionnaires were distributed and 48 questionnaires were returned with responses.

Validity and Reliability

In order to determine content reliability of questionnaire and research hypothesis, the questionnaire was delivered to some professors and organizational experts for review. Their views were used for editing and finalizing the questionnaire.

For its validity, 20 copies of the questionnaire were distributed among the members of the population. And then Alpha Kronbakh was computed through SPSS software. As a result it made clear that changing some questions would increase the validity of questionnaire. After that, the validity of questionnaire was confirmed to be 90.6 percent.

Statistical Population (Location of Research Study)

The statistical population in this research is from the Institute of Management Research and Education (IMRE). Diversification of tasks, expert employees with higher education degrees (who increased both reliability and validity of the research), commitment and support of higher management and other top managers, and their acquaintance with research activities. IMRE’s role as a pioneer in fields such as customer-orientation, quality, training, technology, and information systems, made the choice of IMRE appropriate for this research. Therefore, the statistical population is IMRE: 70 employees including office employee with diploma, experts, supervisors, middle and top managers, and faculty members.

Data Analysis Methods

In order to examine reliability of questionnaire, the alpha Kronbakh test was used. The data analysis method was descriptive analytical, and data analyzed by SPSS software. In order to examine the research hypothesis and for correlation between answers and their personal qualifications, the Chi-square one-way variance test was used. Statistical methods are summarized below:

1-      Frequency distribution, percents figures and diagrams for determining the present status of the knowledge management cycle.

2-      One way variance and Tuki test for testing the correlation between respondees and their aspects.

3-      Correlation coefficient for correlation between loops of the knowledge management cycle.

Research Data Analysis

General Questions (Personal Qualifications)

Education level

The greatest frequency concerning education level among respondees was holders of bachelor degrees, that is 43/8%, the least frequency belongs to holders of doctoral degrees, which is 8/3%.

Field of education

20.8% of respondees have been educated in management and 79.2% human and basic sciences.


The greatest frequency is 68.7% for age group 40-20; the least, 4.2%, for the age group 60 and over.

Years of service

The greatest frequency is 31.3% for respondees with 2-5 years of service; the least is 4.2% for those with less than one year of service.

Place of work

The greatest frequency concerning the place of work, belongs to people in the Deputy on Educational Affairs, that is 39.6%.

Specific Questions

The frequency of each question examined, the average frequency of questions related to knowledge creating, organizing, sharing and applying, and who chose alternatives ‘much’ and ‘very much’ are reported in Figure 2.

Figure 2

The Average Frequency of Answers to Questions of Each Four Loop

Loop name

Knowledge Creating

Knowledge Organizing

Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Applying

Frequency percent of ‘much’ and ‘very much’ alternatives





The survey data in Figure 2 provides answer to the research questions:

1- What is the present status of knowledge creating loop at IMRE?

41% of respondees chose the alternatives ‘much’ and ‘very much’ to questions concerning the knowledge creating loop.

2- What is the present status of Knowledge organizing at IMRE?

42% of respondees chose the alternatives ‘much’ and ‘very much’ to te questions concerning the knowledge organizing loop.

3- What is the present status of knowledge sharing loop at IMRE?

32% of respondees chose the alternatives ‘much’ and ‘very much’ to questions concerning the knowledge sharing loop.

4- What is the present status of knowledge applying loop at IMRE?

40% of respondees chose the alternatives ‘much’ and ‘very much’ to questions concerning the knowledge applying loop.

Anova Variance Test

In order to examine the relation between personal qualifications of respondees and respond to questions related to creating, organizing, sharing, and applying loops, the Anova test was used.

In the creating the knowledge loop, people with 2-5 years of service had the lowest ‘very much’ response while people with 16 and more years of service had the highest response for the ‘much’ alternative.

In the organizing loop, people with 2-5 years of service had the lowest response for the ‘very much’ alternative. Those with 6-10 and 11-15 years of services were highest for the ‘much’ alternative.

In the sharing loop, there is a meaningful relation between people age and choice of fourth alternative. People with age 51-60 years most often chose the ‘less’ alternative.

In the applying loop, people with 51-60 years age, chose the “less” alternative.

Nonparametric Test of Correlation between Loops

In order to examine the correlation among loops of knowledge management cycle, and response to the fifth question of this research concerning the correlation among loops of the management cycle, a nonparametric test used. Results show that people who believe knowledge creates in a high level, do not believe at the same amount that knowledge is applied. In other words, there is no meaningful correlation between knowledge creating and applying at the 95% confidence level.

Recommendations Based on the Research Results

Knowledge Creating Loop

The results of this research show that yhe majority of respondees are concerned about upgrading their knowledge in the future. Continuous learning is a priority for them, and they personally desire to pursue available learning opportunities. On the other hand, 64/6% of respondees believe there is very little systematic trend for employee education. And 33% think that management should provides such learning opportunities for its people. Thus, it is suggested to establish a systematic trend for employee training.

To 14.6%, management evaluate much the knowledge upgrade of its employees. 77.1% of respondees would feel proud to write an article or translate one. 21.3% personally send articles to the conferences relating to their specializations. 47.9% believe that management can motivate writing or translating an article. Motivating policies could be devised to increase this percent.

37/6% of respondees, believe more knowledge means possessing more monetary benefits, to 23% holders of strategic knowledge are much satisfied at IMRE. To 8/8% of respondees, benefits of possessing knowledge motivate them much to acquire knowledge. 70% of respondees believe that more knowledge means more labour very much at IMRE. So modifying payment system and making it knowledge based would help.

43/8% believe management is sensitive in preserving its knowledge based employees and to 18/8% of them, preserving knowledge based employees is much systematic: it suggested here to the management to adopt proper policies in this respect.

Knowledge Organizing Loop

37/5% of respondees think they organize what they've  learned much and very much. It is here suggested to concern a shared file in the intranet which guide people to organize their knowledge in them

77/11%desire much to organize personally their knowledge, while 16/7% believe there is much an information system for knowledge organizing. Concerning related soft wares for this purpose is problem solving.

Sharing Knowledge Loop

 To 14/6% of respodees, knowledge sharing is much desired by majority. Improving the culture of knowledge sharing here is recommended.

14/6% believe that sharing knowledge is much flown among functional divisions. So it is recommended to reengineer and rethink about work processes and procedures.

37/1% think that management encourages much employees for knowledge sharing and 10/4% believe knowledge sharing is actively rewarded all over the organizations borders. So here it is recommended to motivating systems to be desined.

According to 12/5% of respondees, librarians distribute necessary information on time. In this respect making them aware of their critical role in knowledge sharing could be useful.

Knowledge applying loop

To 14/6% of respodees, enthusiasm towards knowledge appliance exists much, and to 14/6%, IMRE has systematic processes for expoiting knpwledge. In this respect, IMRE can receive from employees themselves useful suggestions on making knowledge applicable. Furthermore, designing systematic processes for knowledge Appliances would be useful.

14/6% of respondees believe that after participating in educational courses, managemet worry much about its appliance by them. Policymaking for motivating people for applying what they've  learned is essential.

To 10% of them, IMRE act for exploring knowledge gained through performed projects. It is recommended here to assign the duty of transferring this knowledge to the needed audiences in order to establish connection between projects results and applying them.

In spite of the fact that attaining a knowledge-based organization in which all its four loops are managed efficiently is difficult, it is not impossible.


1.      Drucker, Peter (1995) "The Post – Capitalist Society", Oxford: Butterworth-Heineman.

2.      Gamble,Paul (2001), "Knowledge Management".

3.      Jashapara,Ashok, (2004)"Knowledge Management".

4.      www.moesmea.gov.tw

5.      Kwakman, Kitty (2004), "The Knowledge- Productive Corporate University",
           University of Twente Publishing

6.      Nicholas Bahra (2001) "Competitive Knowledye Management" Macmillan, London-now Palgrave

7.      Nonaka, I. (1991)" The Knowledge – creating company" , Harvard Business Review, vol.64.

8.      Polani,M. (1966)" Tacit Dimensions", New York: Anchor Press.

9.      Tatalias,Jean (2001), "Knowledge Management Model Guides KM Process",
            MITRE Organization.

10.  Theknowledgecollege.net

11.  www.dod.mil/learn/knowledgemanconcept.htm

12.  www.our competitive Future- building the knowledge Driven Economy

About the Authors

Hassan Darvish, Ph.D. is Associate Professor at Payam Noor University, Iran.

Saeed Kharaghani, Ph.D. is Associate Professor at Abbaspur University, Iran.

Minoo Selseleh is a Ph.D student at Payam Noor University, Iran.

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