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Effects of knowledge management on unit performance: examining the moderating role of tacitness and learnability

Derrick McIver (Department of Management, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA)
Douglas A. Lepisto (Department of Management, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 10 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine and test the moderating influence of the type of knowledge underlying work – known as the knowledge in practice (KIP) perspective – on the relationship between knowledge management (KM) activities and unit performance. KIP proposes that the knowledge underlying work varies according to two dimensions: tacitness and learnability. This theory proposes that aligning KM activities with tacitness and learnability results in increased performance. However, to the authors’ knowledge, there exists no direct empirical tests of these propositions outlined in KIP theory. This study examines the empirical support for the theoretical predictions outlined by KIP.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a multiple survey, multiple respondent survey design to measure KM activity sets, the tacitness and learnability involved in work contexts and unit performance. Regression analysis is used to test the hypotheses.

Findings

In line with previous research, the authors find support for a direct relationship between some KM activity sets and unit performance. Surprisingly, the authors did not find support for the predictions offered by KIP theory. Specifically, the degree of tacitness or learnability did not moderate the relationship between KM activity sets and unit performance.

Research limitations/implications

The lack of findings to support the moderating effects of tacitness and learnability on the relationship between KM activity sets and unit performance challenges the adequacy of existing formulations of KIP theory. The authors discuss several important future research directions to examine this puzzling finding.

Practical implications

This paper reinforces the suggestion that managers at all levels of organizations should engage in KM activities to increase performance. These findings also suggest that considering the type of knowledge underlying a unit’s work should not be a consideration in implementing KM activities.

Originality/value

This is the first study to empirically test a KIP perspective. That is, how the type of knowledge involved in work moderates the relationships between KM activity sets and unit performance.

Keywords

Citation

McIver, D. and Lepisto, D.A. (2017), "Effects of knowledge management on unit performance: examining the moderating role of tacitness and learnability", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 796-816. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-08-2016-0347

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited