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Protecting organizational knowledge: a structured literature review

Markus Manhart (Information Systems, Production and Logistics Management, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)
Stefan Thalmann (Information Systems, Production and Logistics Management, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 7 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to investigate pertinent knowledge protection literature. At the same time, however, knowledge protection is often a neglected or underdeveloped area. This is all the more concerning as knowledge protection plays an essential part in preserving an organization’s competitive advantage. Despite the recognition of this issue by scholars, the knowledge management literature has so far tended to concentrate on the facilitation of knowledge sharing rather than on knowledge protection.


In this paper, the authors present the results of a structured literature review undertaken to investigate the current state of research on knowledge protection. The paper identifies core domains in knowledge protection literature, discusses theoretical perspectives and research methods, sheds light on the role of the information technology (IT) artefact in knowledge protection research and develops a portfolio of knowledge protection measures.


In this paper, 48 papers were analyzed by taking five analytical dimensions into account: research domains, research methods and models, the role of the IT artefact, theoretical views and measures to enforce knowledge protection. Based on the discussion of the results, promising avenues for further research were identified and a research agenda was proposed. The authors argued for more research on the protection of tacit knowledge, more in-depth empirical investigations, more research on IT support and a stronger consideration of theories in knowledge protection research, as well as research on how organizations could build a strategy of knowledge protection.

Research limitations/implications

Tacit knowledge, as well as informal alliances or (social) networks, is under-researched so far. Knowledge protection phenomena need to be investigated in depth to test the assumptions stated in many conceptual papers. IT artefacts should be developed and evaluated. More theory-based research and overarching frameworks or strategies for knowledge protection need to be developed.

Practical implications

In this paper, a portfolio of knowledge protection measures was developed, which might be of particular interest for practitioners. Further, the paper provides a good overview of the current state of practice regarding knowledge protection.


So far, there is no structured literature available focussing on the topic of knowledge protection.



The research leading to the presented results was partially funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) and Learning Layers (Project no. 318209).


Manhart, M. and Thalmann, S. (2015), "Protecting organizational knowledge: a structured literature review", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 190-211.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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