Tag Archives: knowledge management

K is for Knowledge and M is for Mobilisation. Why bother with Knowledge Mobilisation in healthcare?

At a recent workshop the statement was made that no-one understands the term knowledge mobilisation explaining that it needs to be translated to have meaning within the specific cultural context of a particular organisation.  So what words do you use to describe knowledge mobilisation for your own organisation? 

Sharing ideas; reflecting; connecting; experiential learning; networking; using organisational knowledge; sharing information; learning lessons; using evidence; managing knowledge; translating knowledge; organisational learning; using know-how; learning before, during and after; transferring knowledge; sharing good practice and ideas; connecting people. 

The good thing about the term “knowledge mobilisation” is that it encompasses all of the above but this also makes it tricky to define.  Breaking the term down may help. 

KNOWLEDGE:  That which is explicit or documented – research, data-sets, guidelines and that which is tacit – the know-how and values held by individuals and within organisations based upon wisdom and experience  

MOBILISATION:   Organising and preparing for action – considering how knowledge is to be used to achieve a particular purpose.   

Knowledge Mobilisation is about connecting and encouraging people to share explicit and tacit knowledge  AND  to  USE  this knowledge to inform their decision making.  

This definition was reflected on a discussion board by participants at the recent UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum: 

  • “Getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time so they can use it in a way to aid in their decisions and sometimes this right knowledge is also about getting the right people to the right people at the right time” 
  • “Knowledge Mobilisation is about bringing together different communities to share knowledge to catalyse change” 
  • “Joining up /connecting different forms of knowledge (from research, from practice, from experience, etc) helping people make sense of it all and how it joins up to build a clearer picture” 

 An easy-read description 

Within Knowledge for Healthcare (HEE, 2021) one of the key strands of work relates to mobilising evidence and knowledge.  In the easy-read version of the strategy (HEE, 2021) this is simply described as “Getting the right information from different places and sharing it” and this “right information” can be from reports, research , the  internet and from the things people know but haven’t written down.  People can then use this knowledge to help inform their decisions and actions.   

What about knowledge management? 

Some prefer the term knowledge management but this too lacks an agreed definition (BSI, 2018) and often gets confused with information management (Payne, 2020).  Knowledge management has been described by Nancy Dixon as evolving through three eras over the last 20 years.  The first era relates to leveraging documented knowledge, creating a collection and connecting people to it.  The second is concerned with leveraging experiential knowledge which is primarily concerned with connecting people to people and the third era is about leveraging collective knowledge and is primarily about creating new knowledge and innovation often from conversations (Dixon, 2018).   More recently there has been discussion about  the evolution of a fourth era, some consider that this will reflect technological changes with increased use of artificial intelligence whereas others feel there is a further stage of collaboration emerging (Henley Forum, 2020; CILIP, 2020)   

Knowledge Mobilisation incorporates all of these phases as described by Dixon and many of the processes, tools and techniques commonly associated with knowledge management are part of the knowledge specialists’ toolkit to mobilise knowledge.  The decision to substitute the word mobilisation for management is however very deliberate.  Rather than control and organise knowledge our role as knowledge specialists is about enabling others to actively use knowledge to inform their decisions and actions. 

 Where does evidence fit into all of this? 

Knowledge Mobilisation is also concerned with enabling the use of evidence.  Evidence comes in many forms and varying degrees of quality and volume depending on the topic. It is often research published in peer-reviewed journals, or as reports. Evidence based practice emphasises the importance of understanding and applying the evidence taking into consideration other factors including expert knowledge and values.  Decisions must take account of the best available evidence and individual and organisational knowledge.  Enabling evidence-based practice must consider the capture and mobilisation of knowledge as well as evidence. Knowledge specialists enable decision makers to take account of this full continuum.   

The valuable role of the knowledge specialist 

The Knowledge Specialists’ role is crucial, not only providing access to evidence, perhaps as books or research databases, but also gathering examples of good practice and connecting people to actively encourage knowledge and insights to be shared.  To mobilise knowledge the knowledge specialist translates and transforms all of this knowledge so it can be easily used and applied in practice by the people working within healthcare organisations, services and systems.  Sometimes described as a “knowledge broker” the knowledge specialist uses their expertise to ensure healthcare organisations, services and systems are effective in mobilising evidence and internally generated knowledge. They also ensure  that healthcare staff can: 

  • Apply and use evidence 
  • Build know-how 
  • Continue to learn 
  • Drive innovation 

They do this by: 

  • Connecting people to people  
  • Connecting people to knowledge and the evidence base  
  • Connecting people to good practice
  • Ensuring  people  keep up to date 
  • Facilitating shared learning 
  • Connecting people to corporate knowledge
  • Enabling collegiate working 

Aligned to multidisciplinary teams, embedded knowledge specialists release the time of health professionals by seeking out evidence and good practice. They are often asked to synthesise and summarise information, working with clinical or management teams to deliver decision-ready evidence and knowledge.  They promote tools and techniques so teams can capture, share and re-use staff know-how and organisational knowledge; enabling teams to learn continuously and work collegiately.  Mobilised in this way knowledge is used to underpin strategy, operations and innovation and helps to foster a learning culture. 

But, another team does this in my organisation. 

Some of the aspects of knowledge mobilisation may be carried out by other teams within the organisation.  Chris Collison describes it as one country bordered by many, including organisational development, research, project management, quality improvement, informatics, education and training, transformation to name but a few (Collison, 2014).  One role for the knowledge specialist is therefore to build bridges with these other disciplines and to work in partnership with these teams to align knowledge mobilisation activities.  Recently an example of how knowledge mobilisation activities mapped to a quality improvement cycle was shared on Twitter (Gibbons, 2021):

Tweet with image of circles Weaving evidence, horizon scanning and knowledge mobilisation through the QI journey

A picture says more than a thousand words 

If we use “knowledge mobilisation” with conviction to describe the valuable work knowledge and library specialists do then there will be less of a necessity to reach for an alternative for each separate NHS organisation or system.  You may find that a single image encapsulates all of this much more effectively. 

Drawing of a road with signposts adn icons indicating different types of evidence and knowledge 

The bottom-line is that knowledge mobilisation, when done well, encourages NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients and the public to use the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place, enabling high quality decision-making, learning, research and innovation to achieve excellent healthcare and health improvement.  

For further information about knowledge mobilisation please refer to  the  NHS Knowledge Mobilisation Framework.   To get ideas for knowledge mobilisation activities take a look at the KM ToolkitKNOWvember resources or start a conversation of your own on the KM Community of Practice. 


UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum 2021 – discussion board at forum 

Health Education England (2021) Knowledge for Healthcare: Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes

Health Education England (2021) A plan to make NHS Library Services in
England better.  Knowledge for Healthcare Easy Read

BSI (2018) BS ISO 30401: Knowledge management systems – Requirements.  London: BSI 

Payne, J. and Fryer, J. (2020) Knowledge management and information management: A tale of two siblings. Business Information review 37(2): 69 -77 

Dixon, N.M.  (2018) The three eras of knowledge management.  In: J.P. Girard and J.I. Girard (Eds.) Knowledge management matters:  Words of wisdom from leading practitioners (19-47). Macon, GA: Sagology

Henley Forum 20th Annual Conference 2020, Collaboration for Innovation.

CILIP (2020) Conversation Café Webinar with David Gurteen

Collison, C (2014) Mapping the KM Landscape.  Knowledgeable Blog Post 

Gibbons, A. (2021) E4QI Meeting Tweet re presentation by @PhoneixAutumn Weaving evidence, horizon scanning and knowledge mobilisation through the QI journey

Alison Day
Knowledge for Healthcare Project Manager
Health Education England

KNOWvember20 Showcase is underway

Happy KNOWvember20 – will you been inspired to try something new?

Library and knowledge staff across the country have been showcasing their work mobilising evidence and knowledge during the month of November.

“As a result of this session I will look at how we can use learn at lunch type sessions or coffee conversations within the team and linking in with OD workstreams” Participant at KNOWvember20 Showcase

This year, more than any other, has highlighted the benefits of mobilising evidence and knowledge as part of the required response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  A series of presentations on the 2nd November re-enforced this where we heard about the work of the NHS England and NHS Improvement Beneficial Change Network that used knowledge management activities to capture the innovations and changes that occurred in health and care delivery as a consequence of the Covid pandemic.  Stephen Ayre shared how he had used the conversation café format at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust to support staff wellbeing and Tracey Pratchett described how the premortem technique* had been used at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS FT to learn valuable lessons about the first wave of the pandemic.

*Klein (2007) Performing a Project Premortem. HBR https://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-prem

Some of us are also trying to move ahead with projects established just before Covid hit.  We heard from Deena Maggs who described how she worked collaboratively with others in the Kings Fund to get agreement for her project to manage the corporate memory of the organisation.  Whereas Preeti Puligari from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust continued to run the QI poster competition to encourage the spread of good practice across her trust.  We heard about how the library became involved and the opportunities that involvement presented for the library and knowledge service. During this session we also held a mini Peer Assist – using the questions from the peer assist technique to learn more from our speakers.  Further details about the session with links to all the presentations can be found in the virtual delegate pack.

four cartoon people sat around a table with a gingham tablecloth

A knowledge café was held on the 12th November which, prompted by an interesting talk by Karen McFarlane the CILIP representative on the committee preparing the BS/ ISO 30401 Knowledge Management Systems, led to conversations about how to use the standard, develop skills and knowledge to make knowledge management part of our standard business offer.  Karen provided a useful overview to the standard and explained how it could be used to internally audit KM practice.  She then moved on to tell us more about CILIP’s knowledge management chartership and there was lots of interest in the chat function about this.  Karen’s presentation, plus links to further information about CILIP Knowledge Management Chartership are available in the Virtual Delegate Pack.

Further events lined-up for KNOWvember20.

On the 17th November 12:30 join the #ukmedlibs chat for a discussion  to share ideas, think about good practice and discuss creative solutions to mobilise knowledge effectively online and during a pandemic.

The 20th November at 11am will consider how we can influence a culture of learning and knowledge sharing in our organisations.   We will hear from speakers sharing the knowledge management initiatives they have been involved with, conduct the first part of an appreciative inquiry into what has gone well for others introducing KM, hold an After Action Review to discover what has worked or not worked well for two knowledge managers and hold a knowledge exchange to find out more about the NHSE/I Beneficial Change Unit.

The 30th November is the last of our recorded webinar sessions and we are excited to be joined by Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner, BT Enterprise who will insp

four cartoon people stading around an over-sized fish in a bowl of water

ire us to consider the ways we live and work in a a future where technology is instrumental.  We will follow this with a virtual fishbowl conversation to further explore the points made by Nicola.

Starting from this week we will also be inviting library and knowledge specialists to record interviews with each other about the work they have been doing to mobilise evidence and knowledge in their organisations.  This could be small scale holding of randomised coffee trials to full-blown implementation of knowledge management strategies.  You can watch the first of these interviews with Sarah Lewis at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, on the  KNOWvember20 YouTube Channel.  Here you will also find all the recorded talks from the sessions held throughout November plus interviews with knowledge managers working in other NHS and non-NHS sectors.

Be inspired and tell us what you have been doing to mobilise evidence and knowledge.

KM to KM – Knowledge Management to Knowledge Mobilisation: a trend?

A reflection from David Stewart

“Knowledge Management (KM), what’s that then?” A question I used to dread. That “crunch” moment in the lift when a very senior person asks you a question that really takes more than 30 seconds to answer. I had never heard of knowledge management until the later 1990s; it certainly did not feature in my librarianship course in 1981, but then neither did computers!

Once I heard the term, I started to try to find out more. There was a bewildering array of theoretical articles some of which promised to supercharge our workplace; others were very dismissive; “knowledge can’t be managed” I collected them together and soon had two box files full and was none the wiser. Then someone pointed me to a local academic, Dr Jim Hughes at Salford University who was lecturing in KM. Jim ran a whole series of seminars for North West NHS librarians in the early 2000s, helping us to understand where it came from and what it might be. We also worked with Dr Chris Mimnagh, a GP and commissioner who was very enthusiastic about the potential of KM. Chris now works with The Innovation Agency in the North West.

Over the next fifteen years KM appeared to come and go, sometimes being treated as a “nice to have” and not a priority in financially constrained times. Nevertheless, it became an important strand as we wrote and published Knowledge for Healthcare in December 2014. The Mobilising Evidence and Knowledge workstream has been our programme for bringing Knowledge Management to the centre of our offer into the healthcare system. This firmly twins our long-established role in disseminating and providing access to evidence from research and practice with a corporate responsibility to better manage and use knowledge and shared learning.

Five years on, and reviewing what we have achieved, I believe we have moved significantly on the KM front. Almost all NHS library and knowledge services (note that we now refer to knowledge services  as an integral part of our function) have been able to demonstrate, via their Library Quality Assurance Framework (LQAF) returns, that they are actively involved in some aspect of KM within their trust. We have recently published a new edition of the KM Framework postcards describing learning before, during and after techniques; more and more of us can run a knowledge café and understand what the goldfish bowl technique is. More NHS organisations are using the Health Education England self-assessment tool to assess how well they are using evidence and organisational knowledge, working with health library and knowledge specialists to prioritise KM activities.  We are about to initiate market research on potential demand for an e-qualification in KM for NHS staff.

I believe we are in a very different KM space than even five years ago. Listen to my recent Webinar on the background and context of Quality and Improvement Outcome Four of the new Quality and Improvement Outcomes Framework where I say that KM “will become the every-day core of what we do” – delivering Knowledge and Library Services to ensure that organisational knowledge and best evidence are mobilised to achieve excellent healthcare and health improvement.

David Stewart, Head of Library and Knowledge Services North, Directorate of Innovation and Transformation, Health Education England