To read this content please select one of the options below:

Beyond the knowledge sharing dilemma: the role of customisation

Makoto Matsuo (Graduate School of Business, Otaru University of Commerce, Otaru City, Japan.)
Mark Easterby‐Smith (Management School, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK.)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to explore how business professionals learn both through sharing knowledge with others, and from their own direct experience.


There are two contrasting approaches to knowledge management. One suggests that knowledge should be disseminated efficiently through the use of information technology‐based systems, the other maintains that it is more important to encourage and share the “knowing” that arises directly from the experiences of employees. This paper examines these two approaches from interviews with consultants and project managers in six major Japanese companies.


The paper concludes that there is often a trade‐off between technology‐based systems and experience, where strong technological systems inhibit experience‐based learning, and refer to this as the “knowledge‐sharing dilemma”. But this is not always the case. The results suggest that when employees are encouraged to customize technology‐based knowledge for their own purposes this will actually enhance their capability for experiential learning.

Research limitations/implications

Since the data presented in this research are limited to the IT professionals in Japanese firms, further studies could consider the international context and other industries in order to generalize the findings.


A major dilemma about combining experiential learning with computer‐based knowledge sharing was identified. This “knowledge sharing dilemma” implies that the more computer‐based knowledge sharing is promoted, the less that experiential learning may take place. By introducing the idea of customisation the paper extends the concept beyond a simple trade‐off in knowledge sharing.



Matsuo, M. and Easterby‐Smith, M. (2008), "Beyond the knowledge sharing dilemma: the role of customisation", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 30-43.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles