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Delineating knowledge management through lexical analysis – a retrospective

Jacobus Philippus van Deventer (Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Cornelius Johannes Kruger (Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Roy Donald Johnson (Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

Academic authors tend to define terms that meet their own needs. Knowledge Management (KM) is a term that comes to mind and is examined in this study. Lexicographical research identified KM terms used by authors from 1996 to 2006 in academic outlets to define KM. Data were collected based on strict criteria which included that definitions should be unique instances. From 2006 onwards, these authors could not identify new unique instances of definitions with repetitive usage of such definition instances. Analysis revealed that KM is directly defined by People (Person and Organisation), Processes (Codify, Share, Leverage, and Process) and Contextualised Content (Information). The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

The aim of this paper is to add to the body of knowledge in the KM discipline and supply KM practitioners and scholars with insight into what is commonly regarded to be KM so as to reignite the debate on what one could consider as KM. The lexicon used by KM scholars was evaluated though the application of lexicographical research methods as extended though Knowledge Discovery and Text Analysis methods.

Findings

By simplifying term relationships through the application of lexicographical research methods, as extended though Knowledge Discovery and Text Analysis methods, it was found that KM is directly defined by People (Person and Organisation), Processes (Codify, Share, Leverage, Process) and Contextualised Content (Information). One would therefore be able to indicate that KM, from an academic point of view, refers to people processing contextualised content.

Research limitations/implications

In total, 42 definitions were identified spanning a period of 11 years. This represented the first use of KM through the estimated apex of terms used. From 2006 onwards definitions were used in repetition, and all definitions that were considered to repeat were therefore subsequently excluded as not being unique instances. All definitions listed are by no means complete and exhaustive. The definitions are viewed outside the scope and context in which they were originally formulated and then used to review the key concepts in the definitions themselves.

Social implications

When the authors refer to the aforementioned discussion of KM content as well as the presentation of the method followed in this paper, the authors may have a few implications for future research in KM. First the research validates ideas presented by the OECD in 2005 pertaining to KM. It also validates that through the evolution of KM, the authors ended with a description of KM that may be seen as a standardised description. If the authors as academics and practitioners, for example, refer to KM as the same construct and/or idea, it has the potential to speculatively, distinguish between what KM may or may not be.

Originality/value

By simplifying the term used to define KM, by focusing on the most common definitions, the paper assist in refocusing KM by reconsidering the dimensions that is the most common in how it has been defined over time. This would hopefully assist in reigniting discussions about KM and how it may be used to the benefit of an organisation.

Keywords

Citation

van Deventer, J.P., Kruger, C.J. and Johnson, R.D. (2015), "Delineating knowledge management through lexical analysis – a retrospective", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 67 No. 2, pp. 203-229. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-05-2014-0057

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited