“What’s Knowledge Services?” Defining the Concept

Written By: Guy St. Clair of SMR International


What’s This All About? It’s fun to begin with a story. And since any number of people will tell you that knowledge management (KM), knowledge services, and knowledge sharing are really just storytelling, let’s go there. Because – and I believe this – if you tell the story well, the knowledge you want to share is shared well.


Knowledge Services – The Story

My story today concerns a very fine student, a graduate student from France, who apparently came to America to get the best graduate education he could get. He was doing his work in global studies, and while I doubt that Applied Knowledge Services (the course I taught) was recommended by his “real” advisors, when he came to me for some pre-semester mentoring, it was clear he found something appealing about knowledge services. So when he asked if he could take the course, I agreed, although I was pretty strict about telling him that he might begin to think about knowledge and knowledge sharing a little differently.

And that’s exactly what happened. Despite the fact that he sat close up, in the second row, and was listening, taking in everything I said from the podium and what he heard from other students in our class discussions, he surprised me at the end of the third class meeting.

As we were all getting into our coats, it was one of those classic moments when suddenly there was total silence, and as he was rising from his desk and slipping his arms in his topcoat, I heard my French student speak to me.

“Professor? May I ask you a question?

“Sure,“ I said. “What can I help you with?”

“Can you tell me please,” – he was extremely sincere – “what’s this all about?”


Defining Knowledge Services

Of course. In all my enthusiasm about knowledge services (and, yes, I really am called an “evangelist”), I just didn’t realize how important it is to define a “new” or “nearly new” subject, a different way of thinking about knowledge, and knowledge sharing, and knowledge services. Those of us involved just have to remember that everybody doesn’t spend all their time thinking about how they can share knowledge better, and we have to let them know what we’re talking about.

Another student, considering our graduate course in applied knowledge services, listened carefully to my “pitch” when she came to ask me about the course. She – like my French student – was considering taking the course, so I talked to her. When I got to the point of defining knowledge services, here’s what I said (or something like this, since this version seems a little stilted for speaking with a student, but it’s a kind of phraseology I often use when writing about knowledge services):

Knowledge services is an approach to managing an organization’s knowledge. We do it by converging information management, knowledge management (KM), and strategic learning into a single enterprise-wide discipline. Its goal – very simply – is to ensure the highest levels of knowledge sharing within the organization.

Her response? “You have to teach that?”

And the result? We spoke for a little while longer and she left. Then, to my surprise, she signed up for the course, and she turned out to be one of most enthusiastic students I’ve ever taught. And – best of all – she got one of the highest grades I’ve ever given. She really learned knowledge services.

“Guy St. Clair is President, Consulting Specialist for Knowledge Strategy, and Knowledge Services Evangelist for SMR International. In his professional work, Guy is recognized as an expert adviser in knowledge services and in building the organizational knowledge culture, with a special emphasis on knowledge strategy development.”

Guy was awarded SLA’s top honor, the John Cotton Dana award, at the 2019 SLA Annual Conference. Learn more about Guy St. Clair’s accolades and his life time of achievements here.