Chief knowledge officer

A chief knowledge officer (CKO) is an organizational leader, responsible for ensuring that the organization maximizes the value it achieves through "knowledge". The CKO is responsible for managing intellectual capital and the custodian of Knowledge Management practices in an organization.[1] CKO is not just a relabelling of the title "chief information officer" - the CKO role is much broader. CKOs can help an organization maximize the returns on investment in knowledge (people, processes and intellectual capital), exploit their intangible assets (know-how, patents, customer relationships), repeat successes, share best practices, improve innovation, and avoid knowledge loss after organizational restructuring.

CKOs must have skills across a wide variety of areas. They must be good at developing/understanding the big picture, advocacy (articulation, promotion and justification of the knowledge agenda, sometimes against cynicism or even open hostility), project and people management (oversight of a variety of activities, attention to detail, ability to motivate), communications (communicating clearly the knowledge agenda, have good listening skills and be sensitive to organizational opportunities and obstacles), leadership, teamworking, influencing, and interpersonal skills. The CKO who successfully combines these skills is well equipped as an excellent agent of change for their organization.

Other terms for CKO include knowledge manager, director of intellectual capital (e.g. Scandia), director of knowledge transfer (e.g. Buckman Laboratories), and knowledge asset manager (e.g. Dow Chemical).


CKO responsibilities include such things as:

  • Collecting relevant data that is useful for the organization as knowledge
  • Developing an overall framework that guides knowledge management
  • Actively promoting the knowledge agenda within and beyond the company
  • Overseeing the development of the knowledge infrastructure
  • Facilitating connections, coordination and communications.

Knowledge Management Initiative

Sunassee and Sewry[2] argued that top management needs to create and share a vision for the knowledge management initiative. The vision is the long-term strategy that will drive the knowledge management initiative and provide the scope within which the knowledge management effort and the organization will grow. The vision should also encompass the core beliefs and values of the organization.

The creation of the vision can be done in two ways. Top management can either appoint a Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO), who will create the vision, or they can create a vision and entrust the CKO to carry it out. It is extremely important at this point that the employees of the organization are allowed to share in the making of vision of the organization. This will create a sense of belonging for the employees, and allow them to participate in the change process. It will also make them accept the change process more readily than if they were not allowed to participate in it.

The views of the employees in the organisations should be considered and there should be a proper system created to share the views.

Knowledge life-cycle

Sunassee and Sewry proposed a knowledge life-cycle to create and maintain individual and organizational learning in the organization:

  1. Create new knowledge
    1. Identify new knowledge
    2. Identify old and existing knowledge
  2. Identify knowledge relevant to organization
  3. Verify selected knowledge
  4. Capture and organize knowledge
  5. Disseminate and use knowledge
  6. Combine new knowledge and re-evaluate assumptions to create knowledge

The CKO should actively manage all stages of the knowledge life-cycle, but most importantly encourage people to disseminate knowledge, and to use it. The last step of the cycle involves re-evaluating assumptions held by the organization and using these new assumptions with the knowledge created by the organization to create new knowledge. This process will generate innovative knowledge and allow the organization to produce innovative products and business processes.

Other CKO tasks

  • Encourage individual learning and innovative thinking
  • Implement reward plans and incentives
  • Determine what technology is needed for the knowledge management effort and implement these technologies.
  • Put processes in place in order to facilitate the creation of organizational learning.
  • Measure the impact of knowledge management on the business.

Roles a CKO must play[3]

  • CKO as Knowledge-sharing Icon
  • CKO as Trust Steward
  • CKO as Total Trainer
  • CKO as Techno Nerd
  • CKO as Number-crunching Accountant


  1. Dalkir, K, (2005). Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice. Jordan Hill, Oxford: Elsevier Inc. 330
  2. Nakkiran N Sunassee and David A Sewry, “A Theoretical Framework for Knowledge Management Implementation”. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series; Vol. 30. Proceedings of the 2002 annual research conference of the South African institute of computer scientists and information technologists on Enablement through technology, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, p. 235 – 245.
  3. Bontis, N, (2001). CKO Wanted — Evangelical Skills Necessary: A Review of the Chief Knowledge Officer Position. Knowledge and Process Management, Volume 8, Number 1. pp 29–38
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