The 21st century has seen radical changes and advancements in its early years. Driven mostly by technological innovations and digital revolutions, information technology has evolved beyond imagination and continues to progress in exponential potential. At the core of this phenomenon is a shift in the major resource of economic activity, from land in the agricultural age, capital in the industrial age, and now, knowledge in the knowledge age.

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We are currently in the Knowledge Age, a new form of capitalism where knowledge and ideas have become the primary source of economic progress. From a perception of knowledge as an inactive form of asset of ‘know how’ or ‘know what’, it is now valued not for what it is but for what it can do. It is a form of energy that flows outward and inward, enabling things to happen or to facilitate creation. In this sense, knowledge is treated as an invaluable resource especially in an organizational setting where knowledge is required to be in constant use and motion. Harnessing knowledge has been a practical strategy to document knowledge and information for common systematic use such as manuals, guidebooks and policies. This is defined as Knowledge Management where various data and information is managed systematically to achieve organizational objectives.

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Ikujiro Nonaka, with the fundamental insight that a company is not a machine but a living organism with a collective sense of identity and purpose, together with Hirotaka Takeuchi developed the Socialization, Externalization, Combination and Integration (SECI) model for knowledge creation process. There are two types of knowledge in an organization: tacit and explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is knowledge articulated, expressed, codified and is readily transmitted, while tacit knowledge is described as knowledge not readily expressed or transferred. The knowledge spiral follows the SECI process where in tacit and explicit knowledge share vibrant interactions, crystallizing ideas into standardized concepts and knowledge. This process develops organizational knowledge, enhances efficient processing and interoperability, as well as effective decision making for a high corporate IQ.

Developing a shared vision, shared knowledge and wisdom enables a vast wholeness in moving forward towards attaining the goal of the organization. And this is possible through an active pursuit of knowledge creation, harnessing knowledge from an individual and transforming this idea down to business process improvements and organizational understanding. Stephen Covey, as the famous author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said that when trust goes up, productivity goes up and costs go down; when trust goes down, productivity goes down and costs go up. Knowledge management is no longer just a nice-to-have; it is now a must-have to improve productivity, to innovate and to stay relevant in a knowledge economy.

On November 2013, the Philippines was struck by Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone in Philippine recorded history. The typhoon took 6,300 lives and affected 1.48 million families in addition to causing approximately $2 billion in damages. The resulting destruction in provinces such as Eastern Samar, Leyte, Quezon, Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan and Antique required evacuation operations care of local government units  and intensive relief and rehabilitation operations by the combined efforts of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Office Of Civil Defense (OCD), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), various non-government organizations and civilian aid. The NBI had been charged with handling natural disasters while the Philippine National Police (PNP) is charged with missing persons and human-induced disasters.

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Just two weeks after the incident, almost two thousand bodies had been recovered from affected areas, a number that would continue to increase as relief and recovery operations continued. Majority of the bodies died through drowning or were hit by falling objects from collapsed structures. Retrieval of bodies was conducted with the assistance of the PNP and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), while external examinations, standard data collection, and body identification were conducted by teams from DOH and NBI. Fifty percent of the bodies received in the collection center were examined by the DOH team, while the remainder was processed by the NBI. Only fourteen percent were identified through personal belongings while reports estimate thirty three to eighty nine percent of the bodies have remained unidentified prior to mass burial for sanitation purposes. Failure to identify a huge proportion of the recovered bodies was a massive disappointment to both the public and the families of the victims, which subsequently led to a decrease in public trust in the bureaucracy.

This failure was attributed to poor post-disaster management planning, along with the lack of a common database and a single identification algorithm across agencies. The lack of guidelines and procedures in the management of bodies made it extremely difficult to cross-reference information between autopsy details and missing persons reports. These events prompted the creation of a Unified Workflow for the NBI and other agencies involved in Disaster Victim Identification proposed by Dr. Arjay Jeresano, a medico legal officer of the NBI. The Workflow complements the National Policy on the Management of the Dead and the Missing Persons During Emergencies and Disasters. During a disaster, the MDM cluster is activated followed by the deployment of field commanders and post-mortem teams to the affected sites, sampling and collection, identification process, ante-mortem team deployment, matching of identities, and reconciliation of bodies with their respective families. The project earned the title of Most Collaborative Re-Entry Project from DAP.

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The Unified Workflow of the NBI was applies SECI Model of Organizational Knowledge Creation (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1996) which involves four ways in which knowledge types can be combined and converted: 1) The sharing and creation of tacit knowledge through direct experience; 2) Learning and acquiring new tacit knowledge in practice; 3) Articulating tacit knowledge through dialogue and reflection; and 4) Systemizing and applying explicit knowledge and information. The model is based on two types of knowledge – explicit and tacit. Tacit knowledge is held by individuals and is not readily expressed or transferred such as things we can explain but have not externalized while explicit knowledge is knowledge that has been articulated and expressed, or knowledge that comes from inside and outside the organization that has been combined. The fundamental quality of the SECI Model is the transformation of the two types of knowledge into meaningful information for a specific purpose, best exemplified in this case by the system of post-mortem data collection and identification.  Through this new system, agencies will have a set of guidelines to follow to significantly decrease the number of unidentified bodies in future disasters.

The SECI model (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995).

Knowledge management, along with inter-agency coordination and planning, can save lives and maintain order in times of disasters. The establishment of systems, guidelines and procedures remain crucial in improving organizational productivity, maintaining the quality of service delivery and excellence in any organization.