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Principles for designing pragmatic knowledge management systems

Steven A. Cavaleri (Department of Management and Organization, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 1 August 2004


Knowledge management continues to evolve as a discipline, yet even basic features that define a discipline have to be established. Developing a shared understanding of core concepts, such as the meaning of “knowledge”, has been elusive in this field. In the absence of reaching a universal definition, surrogates for knowledge are adopted because of their expediency or apparent face validity. To date, most knowledge management approaches err on the extremes of being seemingly practical or, on the other hand, being theoretically appealing, but few of these approaches are genuinely pragmatic. At one end, there are mechanistic, information‐based approaches that are actionable, but are often based on flawed philosophical grounds in that they fail to connect beliefs with action through knowledge. At the other extreme are approaches that are philosophically meritorious, but which are viewed by practitioners as being impractical because they are too fuzzy and their methods too unstructured. This paper proposes an approach to knowledge management that is based on firm philosophical grounding, but is also anchored to action via the tenets of pragmatism. This new framework for practicing knowledge management is based on the foundational premises of philosophical pragmatism established by America's greatest philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, over a century ago. Pragmatic knowledge aligns beliefs about the potential for effective action with the lessons of past experience. This paper will outline the conceptual underpinnings of such a pragmatic approach to managing knowledge.



Cavaleri, S.A. (2004), "Principles for designing pragmatic knowledge management systems", The Learning Organization, Vol. 11 No. 4/5, pp. 312-321.



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