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Ethical issues in knowledge management: conflict of knowledge ownership

Isabel Rechberg (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom)
Jawad Syed (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 21 October 2013

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to review ethical issues inherent in the theorisation and practice of knowledge management (KM) with specific attention to the conflict of knowledge ownership between organisations and individual employees.

Design/methodology/approach

Relevant literature was identified and reviewed via EPSCO host and ISIWeb.

Findings

The paper notes that knowledge, although rooted in individuals, is often claimed or treated as owned by organisations, creating a conflict of knowledge ownership. The paper argues that such an approach to appropriation and management of knowledge leads to tension in knowledge processes between organisations and individuals, and also among individuals. This situation may, in turn, jeopardise individuals' knowledge processing behaviours, and pose difficulties to organisations in managing knowledge effectively.

Research limitations/implications

Offers a number of potential research questions that may be turned into research hypotheses and assessed experimentally to refine and develop an ethical approach to KM.

Practical implications

Highlights the need for a renewed moral contract between individuals and organisations, built on ethical constructs of trust, fairness, and justice, which may in turn lead to effective KM practices.

Originality/value

Offers an original conceptual approach to understand and resolve the conflict of knowledge ownership between organizations and individuals.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Received 20 June 2013 Revised 5 September 2013 Accepted 5 September 2013

Citation

Rechberg, I. and Syed, J. (2013), "Ethical issues in knowledge management: conflict of knowledge ownership", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 828-847. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-06-2013-0232

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited