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Knowledge management, intellectual capital and entrepreneurship: a structured literature review

Mauro Paoloni (Department of Business Economics, University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Daniela Coluccia (Department of Business and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Stefano Fontana (Department of Business and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Silvia Solimene (Department of Business and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 20 July 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze within the knowledge management (KM) stream the relationship between KM and intellectual capital (IC) and entrepreneurship (E). IC is a pivotal intangible resource to firms to generate knowledge. Knowledge and information are strategic for today’s company life. IC is generated and dynamically recombined by knowledge, produces knowledge and is feed by knowledge itself, both codified and tacit. For those reasons, the paper is motivated to understand how IC can represent valuable knowledge and how it can turn into innovation, through KM and practices. It is also voted to stimulate literature on understanding how innovation can serve E capabilities for firms’ business models, as innovation is not necessarily linked to a technological breakthrough. IC is functional to KM practices, as entrepreneurs can use IC and knowledge as a strategic management toolbox to innovate.

Design/methodology/approach

The main aim of the paper is to understand the state of the art on these central issues in KM literature. The paper uses a structure literature review (SLR) methodology, gathering papers by Scopus database for the period 2000–2019, on the relationship between KM and IC and E. The second aim is to understand for future research how do managers use IC as an opportunity to innovate and as a vehicle to transfer knowledge. The authors wondered about the qualification/quantification of “knowledge” as a crucial component of IC, which is in turn the riskier, but the more representative, a component of intangibles assets in the era of knowledge.

Findings

As for the first research question, the findings show that, actually, as the research has been started, IC, KM and E are still engaged separately by scholars, even if few efforts to match them together have been performed. The results depict a general fragmented and unsystematic vision of the relationship between the three topics. As for the future of the research about these topics, the authors found that scholars should catch the opportunity to go beyond the traditional theoretical mainstream on these issues. There is an urge to move the focus of KM and IC research toward new models of their interconnection, by including the social capital, namely, knowledge capabilities (explicit or not), etc., which are able to turn knowledge in innovation and competitive advantage, from an accounting perspective (recognizing IC’s components affecting the performance of firms, among which knowledge is the most important) and from a theoretical point of view (reducing the misalignment between the epistemological concept of KM requirements and the effective perception of organizational KM activities to extract value from KM initiatives).

Research limitations/implications

The results, even if suffering from some limitations due to the performing of the methodology, offers several implications for academic research. The future of KM of the IC resources is clearly likely to lie on the recognition of the component of knowledge, as well as on the recognizing of new forms of social capital such as entrepreneurial capital, which is connected to innovation and creativity and firm value. An integrative framework of IC measurement should be built to link IC with KM and E. This is to guarantee that the measurement of IC does contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of KM.

Practical implications

Practical contribution to accounting perspective. In fact, the relations between these three topics could be highly beneficial to validate, in the dynamic societies and organizations, how it is important the entrepreneur’s learning process and its content is fundamental in the quest for new business opportunities/innovations, stated that learning is a crucial factor for entrepreneurial activity and has a structural impact on business models of industrial organizations. The difficulty to recognize in the balance sheet human capital relation could be limited by the introduction of the component of KM practices codification and E attitude and influence to operate this transformation of human capital in organized structural capital. The authors would not give the solution to that problem. The authors just want to address the discussion.

Social implications

The inspiring conclusion from previous studies is to think in a new way at the role of knowledge-based IC in organizational E. Starting from the assertion that knowledge-based process of innovation and E are linked, it can be tested, also from case studies help or empirical application that organizations with a pleasant level of IC are more likely to be more innovative and in conclusion, have a higher market value.

Originality/value

The main contribution of this paper is to afford for the first time, to the best knowledge, an SLR on the interaction in literature among KM, IC and E, simultaneously, to understand where literature research actually is focusing and to lead future thoughts, at a managerial level, toward the interacting implications of KM and IC on value creation by innovation, which is one stream E literature. Although recently scholars have been concerning more empirically about the relationship between KM, IC and E, they are more focused on theoretical aspects than about new ways to look at IC. The future of KM and IC research is clearly likely to lie on the recognition of the component of knowledge, as well as recognizing new forms of social capital such as entrepreneurial capital, which is connected to innovation and creativity. An integrative framework of IC measurement through KM should be built to link IC measurement with KM. This is to guarantee that measurement of IC does contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of KM practices.

Keywords

Citation

Paoloni, M., Coluccia, D., Fontana, S. and Solimene, S. (2020), "Knowledge management, intellectual capital and entrepreneurship: a structured literature review", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 1797-1818. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-01-2020-0052

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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