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Knowledge Triangle

Knowledge Triangle

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Quick Overview

Wiil, Can, Do. The knwoledge Triangle focusses on those three aspects to enable the use of available knowledge to the fullest.

Related models: AIDA Model7S ModelKnowledge TriangleINKSWOT AnalysisBalanced ScorecardFive ForcesBCG Matrix6W's of Corporate GrowthCRM;KondratieffCustomer PyramidProduct Life Cycle


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Knowledge Triangle



This model was developed on behalf of ABNAMRO within a Knowledge Management Programme, led by Peter Verhoeven (ABNAMRO) and Boudewijn van Silfhout

Related models: AIDA Model7S ModelKnowledge TriangleINKSWOT AnalysisBalanced ScorecardFive ForcesBCG Matrix6W's of Corporate GrowthCRM;KondratieffCustomer PyramidProduct Life Cycle

Culture is all about standards, values, manners, motives and group ethics. This is only one of the definitions. Below are more definitions:

-      Culture including “Corporate Culture” can be typified based on four aspects: 1) Power distance in hierarchical relationships, 2) Avoiding uncertainty, 3) Individualism versus Collectivism, 4) Masculinity versus Femininity (Hofstede, 1980).

-      Culture is the whole of habits, institutes, symbols, ideas and values of one group (Kloos, 1976).

-      Culture is the complex whole of knowledge, belief, art, legislation, moral, habit plus other skills and rituals, which people need as members of a community (Tylor, 1871).

-      Culture is the social inheritance of action and belief, determining the contents of our lives (Sapir, 1921).

-      Culture is "the way of life" of a group of people. The way they act is their culture (Herskovits, 1948).

-      Culture consists of orderly and functional interdependent habits, which are specific for certain social groups (Gillin, 1948).

-      Culture is the total of shared patterns of learned behaviour used to transform fundamental biological motives into social needs awarded by institutions, and which at the same time describe what is forbidden and what is permitted (Gorer, 1949).

 -     In a more scary sense culture is the special, time- and place-bound whole of design and interpretation, carried and created by a certain group, nation or community (Nieuwe kleine Winkler Prins, 1987).


The Model

The model describes three aspects requiring attention to allow the existing knowledge and knowledge workers to deliver optimal results. The following aspects are distinguished:

-      Culture: want

-      (Infra)structure and organisation: be able

-      Processes: do.


Interpreting these aspects provides the possibility to use knowledge available to the fullest.

In this model culture is mainly linked to ‘wanting’. If you want someone to deliver a result then you will need to make sure he is ‘able’, ‘willing’ to do that and that he will ‘do’ so. In this model culture is more or less levelled up to ‘wanting’. Answering the ‘why’ question is therefore essential. At a high level this is linked to the organisation’s mission and vision. ‘What do we stand for’ and ‘What are we aiming at’?


(Infra)structure and Organisation

This aspect relates to the design and structure of the environment in which knowledge is to be used. Examples include organisational structures, organisation charts and specific departments designed as such to make clear what is done where, by whom and with what responsibility.

Also, the (physical) tools are scrutinised that help use knowledge to the fullest. Examples include databases, knowledge systems, analysing models, mail facilities, ‘who is who’ applications and wikipedia look-a-likes.



A process is a collection of interrelated tools and activities that should convert input into output. Process features are the following:

-      Clear beginning and ending

-      Successive activities

-      There is input, there is output

-      Adds value.


Different processes are scrutinised:

-      Primary process: this process helps directly create the end product or service.

-      Secondary process: also referred to as the support processes. These do not add directly to creating the final product or service. Nevertheless, they are necessary for monitoring matters and making sure everything runs smoothly.

-      Administrative process: process which based on monitoring activities allows for steering and adjustment.


Consciously paying the right attention to all of these aspects means that the existing knowledge can be used to the fullest to deliver the intended result.


How to use it



You want people to be in the ‘I really want to’ mood. Also use the 4 pillars of commitment: use people according to their competences, acknowledge and appreciate them, grant them some say in the matter and set clear goals.

Analyse your team using the WILL-SKILL matrix and tune your leadership style accordingly. Insufficiently competent and less willing teams and individuals must be instructed fanatically. In case of strong willingness and competence delegating matters will suffice. The individual or team in question will be given space to manage itself.

Consider awarding structures carefully. If knowledge gained is laid down and the expertise of the knowledge workers is made explicit and shared with the organisation, reward can be given in return. Create a knowledge sharing culture rather than a knowledge-is-power culture. Reward people who share their mistakes with others. A mistake worth EUR 10,000 that is shared with other people as a result of which 10 people will not be making the same mistake will save you some EUR 100,000.

Offer people the possibility to step out of their comfort zone and develop new roads and new knowledge. People will become more willing to show proactive behaviour.


(Infra)structure and Organisation

Make the structure of your organisation, project or department explicit. Be transparent about who is responsible for what and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on which these responsibilities and authorities rest. Usually, executives’ KPIs are not public. Sometimes conflicting KIPs exist, in most cases between executives but at times also with one person. This could make certain decisions or behaviour obscure.

Analyse knowledge workers’ need for support based on auxiliary tools. Allow knowledge workers to make their own choices. They know better than anyone else which support they need to perform tasks to satisfaction.



Describe processes clearly including the basic elements. Examples include processes relating to project implementation, customer approaching or company analysis. Stick to the core. People often end up with elaborate descriptions of processes and procedures which the knowledge worker must observe. The negative energy will be invested in explaining why certain matters must be carried out differently and why certain matters are not delivered. Allow the team more freedom of choice. Go for the ‘Fit for Purpose’ approach rather than ‘One Size Fits All’.  

Allow knowledge workers to lay down and make explicit the new insights gained in the implementation phase. Provide the facilities required to do so.

Good luck on using the existing knowledge to the fullest!


Related models: 

-   AIDA Model

-   7S Model

-   Knowledge Triangle

-   INK

-   SWOT Analysis

-   Balanced Scorecard

-   Five Forces

-   BCG Matrix

-   6W's of Corporate Growth

-   CRM;Kondratieff

-   Customer Pyramid

-   Product Life Cycle




-       Wikipedia

-       ABNAMRO

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