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Beyond the ba: managing enabling contexts in knowledge organizations

Chun Wei Choo (Professor in the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Rivadávia Correa Drummond de Alvarenga Neto (Professor at Fundação Dom Cabral (FDC), Nova Lima, Brazil)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 20 July 2010




Looking at the practical experience of organizations pursuing knowledge management, it is found that their efforts are primarily focused on creating the conditions and the context that will enable knowledge creation. This need for developing enabling conditions and contexts was identified more than a decade ago when Nonaka and associates introduced the concept of “ba.” This paper aims to map the development of the concept of “ba” in a number of disciplines in order to understand its theoretical evolution and practical application.


A comprehensive search and evaluation of the literature resulted in a database of 135 papers, four dissertations and four books. Using content analysis, citation analysis, and concept mapping, four categories of research findings are identified that in turn suggest four groups of conditions for enabling knowledge creation.


The paper discusses each of these conditions (the social/behavioral, cognitive/epistemic, information systems/management, and strategy/structural), and introduces a framework that relates these conditions to the type of knowledge process and the level of interaction that characterize a knowledge management activity in the organization.


It is concluded that managing knowledge in organizations is fundamentally about creating an environment in the organization that is conducive to and encourages knowledge creation, sharing and use. Organizations interested in pursuing knowledge management and innovation may wish to be guided by the enabling conditions presented here that have been discovered over ten years of research. These conditions and the frameworks of which they are part can help managers to analyze, discuss, and introduce specific combinations of enabling factors that are tailored according to the type of knowledge process and level of interaction needed to address a particular knowledge problem or vision.



Wei Choo, C. and Correa Drummond de Alvarenga Neto, R. (2010), "Beyond the ba: managing enabling contexts in knowledge organizations", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 592-610.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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