How does one speak of knowledge as an asset when it is non‐rivalrous and ephemeral? The purpose of this paper is to frame “knowledge management” (KM) as significantly more than asset management; instead of binding it to rational decision making, it is grounded in managers' creative responses to the typical deficiencies in their knowledge and to uncertainty.
Drawing on the method of distinctions a knowledge and intellectual capital (IC) management discourse is constructed that relates, first, to data, meaning, and practice, and second, to knowledge assets and knowledge absences.
The rationalist treatment of knowledge assets relates data and meaning to purposive practice. Under conditions of uncertainty this is balanced here with a radical constructivist approach that sees meaning as arising from managerial creativity and exploratory organizational practice.
The practical or managerial implications of this theorizing are legion. The main point is not a theory that supplants managerial creativity; on the contrary, creativity drives both our theory and the organizations that managers manage.
Managing uncertainty forces practice and experience into the foreground. KM and ICM must cover situations in which analysis fails when knowledge is absent just as it covers the management of knowledge assets when they are present.
KM (or ICM) is reframed as an empirically grounded critical theory, a direct critique of rational decision‐making and, by implication, of mainstream managerial theorizing.
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