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This document is intended to describe the principles and core concepts of Knowledge-Centered Service (KCSsm).  KCS is a proven methodology for integrating the use, validation, improvement, and creation of knowledge into the workflow. Inherent in the methodology is a process of continuous improvement that is based on the experience of those doing the work and the patterns that emerge from knowledge reuse. KCS is very different from the traditional knowledge engineering approach, which is based on the concepts of knowledge from a few for the use of many. KCS is a many-to-many model.  Its elegance stems from the fact that it is demand-driven and self-correcting, because it is based on the academic concepts of double loop learning.


KCS creates tremendous value for any information- or knowledge-intensive business.  This document provides a description of the four fundamental principles and the ten core concepts of KCS.  While the KCS Practices document is quite prescriptive, the techniques listed there are offered as an example of how some organizations have successfully adopted the methodology.  These techniques are sometimes mistaken as the only way to implement KCS.  Turns out there are many ways to implement the principles, core concepts, and Practices.  The techniques are an example of how KCS works at the operational level; they are in no way meant to describe the only way to be successful with KCS. 


If we want to maximize our realized benefits, the fundamental principles and core concepts of KCS are not negotiable. Our hope is that these principles and concepts will provide guidance on whether or not a practice or technique aligns with KCS. As organizations embrace KCS, they must make decisions on how to approach certain challenges - some of which may be unique to their business or institution.  The principles and concepts are the criteria by which we can test how well specific practices and techniques align with the KCS philosophy.  


Attributes of Knowledge 

Knowledge is information that people can use to make decisions or take action.  What’s knowledge to one person may not be knowledge to another, because different people have different abilities and responsibilities--a medical journal article may be useful to a doctor, but confusing or misleading to her patient.  Knowledge is most often gained through interaction and experience.  As we acquire more experience, we augment, refine, and correct our knowledge.  Therefore, our knowledge continually evolves, although it never is perfect or truly complete.  We all know our individual knowledge is power.  But a group’s shared knowledge is even more powerful--the “smartest person in the room” is all of us together.  For more about knowledge, see the KCS Practices Guide.


We use the term “service” in its broadest and most generic form.  Service is the business of helping others be successful and productive in their endeavors. In the process of getting work done, there is network of interactions: “requester - responder” or “customer - supplier” relationships. These interactions happen within and across all business functions. The interactions are not bounded by company boundaries or individual roles; they happen between companies, customers, and partners across all information-intensive industries and institutions.

Principles and Core Concepts

A principle is a deep or fundamental belief:

  • A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning
  • A moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and what is wrong and influences your actions


KCS principles apply to multiple practices: principles are the basis for, and manifest themselves in, multiple practices.  Principles don’t tell you how to do something, they tell you why we are doing what we do.


A core concept is based on one or more principles. Core concepts are more specific and more numerous than the principles.

A Practice

The KCS Practices organize what we need to do. The Practices are the application or use of the principles and core concepts in organizing the activities.

  • Practices help us organize the techniques (how)
  • Practice include examples of how to do things (like implementing a balanced scorecard or value footprint) that are applicable across multiple techniques or functions, ie. tech support, HR, financial services.
  • Practices are made up of a definition and techniques. Techniques are details of the Practices that can often be accomplished in many different ways. 

A Technique

Techniques describe activities or how we do things, details on what we need to do (actions, implementable)

  • A skillful or efficient way of doing or achieving something
  • A more granular level of detail than a Practice
  • A collection of techniques make up a Practice


  • Knowledge -  information upon which we can act. Knowledge is the by-product of an interaction.
  • Content - knowledge that is captured and findable. Knowledge content may be in the form of text, pictures, animation, audio or multi-media (video with audio)
  • Network - the collection of people and content who would benefit from interaction and shared experiences, not limited by any artificial boundaries or structure like role, department, division, or company. Intended to include all relevant people and content in the domain including employees, partners, customers and others.
  • Issue - a question, problem, exception. The motivation for people to interact.
  • Knowledge worker - people whose responsibilities include the use of information to make decisions and take action
  • Requestor - a knowledge worker who is seeking knowledge
  • Responder - a knowledge worker offering knowledge


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