This paper aims to argue that the current malaise and fragmentation within knowledge management are at least partially caused by a lack of awareness of its own historical roots.
A comprehensive literature review shows that very explicit knowledge management concepts and practices were in circulation 50 years ago and that current knowledge management literature has very little historical depth.
The current canonical knowledge management literature almost universally ignores significant antecedents to knowledge management thinking and practice dating back to the 1960s.
There are three practical implications: for knowledge management education to recover its historical antecedents; for KM theorists and practitioners to connect KM theory and practice to historically‐related work in economics, sociology and information management, from which it is currently isolated; through an understanding of its roots to help knowledge management theorists build a meaningful and coherent agenda for the discipline.
This is the most extensive exploration to date of the historical origins of knowledge management, with significant implications for recovering a productive agenda for the discipline.
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