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The role of knowledge management in creating a culture of learning: The case of Dubai Municipality

Washika Haak-Saheem (University of Dubai, Dubai, UAE)
Tamer K. Darwish (University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenahm, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 14 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate the role of knowledge management (KM) in creating a culture of learning and creativity in a non-western context. It further seeks to stimulate broader empirical and theoretical discussions on this topic.


As little is known about KM approaches in the regional context, the qualitative approach was chosen as an appropriate method of studying this phenomenon. The openness of the qualitative method enables data collection that is not constrained by predetermined categories of analysis, and thus allows for a level of depth and detail that quantitative methods cannot provide. The empirical investigation is based on semi-structured interviews and conducted in the KM department of Dubai Municipality.


Results indicate that the impact of KM on organisational learning (OL) is below expectations. Written official statements or policies are not sufficient to enforce learning and creativity. Notably, institutional changes at the extreme produce conditions that might reduce the rate of OL. The role of KM is to develop context-specific strategies to embrace learning and creativity.

Research limitations/implications

The developmental process as it unfolds in Dubai has hardly been addressed by academics. However, because of the absence of research related to the regional context in general and KM and OL in particular the authors recommend future researchers to explore the impact of institutional settings on managing knowledge and learning. Researchers can identify in this regard the complexity of an emerging economy and attempt to develop a more fine-tuned understanding of its relationship to KM and OL.

Practical implications

In light of the institutional structures, the findings on KM and OL provide managers guidance in making decisions under extremely uncertain institutional settings.


KM and OL have been discussed within organisational and management research; however, the majority of these studies adopt a western-based perspective. This paper contributes to the understanding of the relationship between KM and OL in an emerging market setting, which has so far received insufficient attention.



The authors are grateful to the editor of this journal and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments and feedback on an earlier draft of this paper which led to several improvements. All shortcomings are the authors. The authors would also like to record their debt to Abdullah Abdul Rahman, the director of the Knowledge Management Department at DM, and to all the employees of the department for being very cooperative and supportive during the conduct of this work.


Haak-Saheem, W. and K. Darwish, T. (2014), "The role of knowledge management in creating a culture of learning: The case of Dubai Municipality", Management Decision, Vol. 52 No. 9, pp. 1611-1629.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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