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Survival in the knowledge economy: feeding the animal in our specialists

Janine Swaak (Telematica Instituut, Enschede, The Netherlands)


ISSN: 0305-5728

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




Money, time and brainpower are being frittered away in the search for knowledge and in reinventing the wheel, all at the expense of efficiency and innovation. Moreover, there is very little understanding of the causes. Proposes to investigate this situation.


Acknowledges that a substantial part of human behaviour is determined by the instinct to survive.


Knowledge management rationalises or idealises human behaviour. However, a large part of human behaviour is driven by the instinct to survive. This instinct makes people egoistic and lazy in a smart way, as they try to achieve the maximum result with the minimum of effort. The same instinct urges them to look after their offspring and their territory, and it makes people as passionate as they are.

Practical implications

It is important to use information technology systems not so much to secure knowledge as to visualise traces of knowledge that people leave behind in their territory and to bring specialists in contact with one another. In organisations, one must make sure that the human scale is preserved and capitalise on people's pride and the way they care for their “offspring”. One must utilise the survival instinct in organisations as it leads to the smarter recycling of knowledge and to innovation.


Knowledge management so far involved technical, business, and learning perspectives. This is the first work on knowledge management acknowledging that a substantial part of human behaviour is determined by people's instinct to survive.



Swaak, J. (2005), "Survival in the knowledge economy: feeding the animal in our specialists", VINE, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 121-131.



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