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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
A decade of knowledge management
The Journal of Knowledge Management (JKM) was established ten years ago to exchange the latest research and practitioner findings on all aspects of managing knowledge in organizations. Over the years JKM has published hundreds of papers examining the latest knowledge management (KM) theories, models, frameworks, best practices and case studies.
During the past decade the field of knowledge management has expanded to include all types of organizations (for-profit, non-profit and public sector) and geographic areas. A growing number of established disciplines are now making significant contributions to KM thought and practice. For example, in this issue authors from Asia, Europe and North America represent the following academic disciplines: cognitive psychology, design, economics, engineering, human resources development, information technology, library science, management, organizational behavior and organizational learning.
Papers for this issue have been selected as representative of the various strands of KM under research and investigation. Although technology plays its part in knowledge management, a careful examination will reveal that all of the papers focus on people-related issues: culture, behaviors, mindsets, etc. Over the next decade a better understanding of these people-related issues will drive knowledge management forward.
Ted Foos, Gary Schum and Sandra Rothenberg look at the factors that influence the transfer of tacit knowledge between product development partners. Based on quantitative and qualitative research, the authors show that trust, early involvement and due diligence influence the extent of meeting technology transfer and tacit knowledge transfer expectations. While managers and project leaders understand the value of tacit knowledge, there are different perceptions concerning how to ensure successful knowledge transfer. There is also a lack of processes to manage it. In addition, project managers fail to manage the transfer the knowledge required for long-term product management. The authors offer several recommendations to help managers begin to think of tacit knowledge as an independent entity and to manage it accordingly.
Many terms commonly used in the field of knowledge management have multiple uses and often there are conflicting definitions because they are adapted from other research streams. Discussions of the various hierarchies of data, information, knowledge, and other related terms, although of value, are limited in providing support for KM. In the paper by Richard C. Hicks, Ronald Dattero and Stuart D. Galup, a new set of terminology is defined and a five tier knowledge management hierarchy (5TKMH) is developed that can provide guidance to managers involved in KM efforts. The authors contend that the 5TKMH supports a KM life cycle, which provides guidance to the chief knowledge officer and/or those responsible for KM and can be employed to inventory knowledge assets, evaluate KM strategy, and plan and manage the evolution of knowledge assets in the firm.
Managing knowledge is a critical capability for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because it helps them leverage their most critical resource. Successful SMEs are those that can leverage their knowledge in an effective and efficient manner to compensate for their deficiencies in traditional resources, such as labor and capital. Kevin C. Desouza and Yukika Awazu discuss five specific SME knowledge management issues: socialization (within the context of the SECI model), common knowledge, knowledge loss, exploitation of external knowledge sources, and people-centered knowledge management. The authors have discovered that SMEs do not manage knowledge the same way as in larger organizations. Viewing SME knowledge management practices as scaled down versions of the practices found in larger organizations is incorrect. SMEs have understandable resource constraints, and hence have to be creative in working around these limitations in order to manage knowledge.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) also manage enterprise knowledge based on a different set of key features and drivers. Snejina Michailova and Bo Bernhard Nielsen have divided MNCs into three distinct types: traditional, knowledge networks and e-businesses. Their research addresses the strategic, technical, organizational and human dimensions of KM, and how these differ for the three MNC models. The authors conclude that whereas traditional MNCs manage knowledge interventions based on the centralized economics of information, it makes more sense to manage networked MNCs as integrated learning organizations and e-business based MNCs as boundary-less virtual communities of practice.
Pavel Štrach and André M. Everett explore the theoretical underpinnings of knowledge transfer within Japanese multinationals. Firstly, the authors examine theoretical models of knowledge transfer within multinationals. Next, they examine knowledge management practices utilized by Japanese companies, especially in their overseas subsidiaries. Finally, the authors develop a conceptual model to describe how knowledge is transferred within Japanese multinationals and their overseas affiliates. The model has two dimensions: facilitating factors and knowledge flow. The three facilitating factors are: access to knowledge transfer channels, ability to transfer knowledge, and motivation to transfer knowledge. Knowledge flows involve: knowledge inflows, knowledge intra-flows, and knowledge outflows.
According to Rony Dayan and Stephen Evans, knowledge management promises to maximize organizational innovation and create a competitive advantage through integrated and measurable knowledge capture, documentation, retrieval and reuse. Since 1991, capability maturity models have been developed for a myriad of disciplines. The capability maturity model integrated (CMMI) is a methodology that enables organizations to develop and maintain well-mapped processes. Dayan and Evans support the position that in mature organizations it is possible to measure and relate between the quality of the process and the quality of the product. They contend that an integrated organizational KM and CMMI approach will lead to a significant competitive advantage.
Andre Boder proposes a new paradigm encompassing the concept of collective intelligence. Establishing organizational intelligence requires the:
development of competencies (achieving complementary competencies);
development of a common representation of the goals (integrating the various conceptions people have about how to reach a goal into a coherent direction); and
development and alignment of processes into what can be called the mechanics of interactions between entities involved (gaining trust and respect).
Each of the above draws upon pre-existing knowledge. The competencies draw from the domain-specific knowledge the company has built on over the years. The goals draw upon knowledge developed in the strategic market segment. The mechanics of collective intelligence draws upon the company’s culture and its formal and informal norms. The author’s concept of collective intelligence provides a new opportunity of reflection, whereby the organization’s knowledge, seen as representing its uniqueness, internal coherence and ability to solve everyday problems, can play a strategic role. Also, it is a reference for co-innovation between partners, since the reciprocal integration between two sources of knowledge may be seen as a co-adaptation between the organization’s value chain and the partner’s value chain.
The purpose of the study by Alexandre Ardichvili, Martin Maurer, Wei Li, and Tim Wentling was to explore cultural factors influencing knowledge sharing strategies in virtual communities of practice. Caterpillar Inc.’s online communities of practice in Brazil, China and Russia were investigated to explain differences in knowledge seeking and sharing patterns based on saving face, in-group orientation, attention paid to power and hierarchy, and culture-specific preferences for communications modes. The results show that these factors have different levels of importance among the participating employees in the three countries under study. The issue of saving face was less important than expected in China. Modesty requirements as well as a high degree of competitiveness among employees were found to be serious barriers to sharing in China, but not in Brazil and Russia. Contrary to initial assumptions, perceived differences in power and hierarchy seemed to be less critical in all three countries.
Patricia Milne and Shawn Callahan report on a research project which investigated the value of the online KM discussion list, ActKM, to its members, how members manage the postings, the degree of off-list activity generated through the list and the impact of the list on KM practice. A basic assumption of the research was that the discussion list ActKM is a community of practice. The empirical results indicate that ActKM is indeed a community of practice and that off-list activity is considered a valuable extension of community life. Other finings are that ActKM is a significant tool that facilitates learning for members and there is strong agreement about the type of postings that are preferred. The paper provides useful insights into the value of list membership for individuals.
The paper by Xeixi Xing introduces a case study of the Chinese knowledge-based firm Huawei. Huawei, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer, has adopted knowledge capitalism through an operational mechanism that pays attention to knowledge resources, assesses the value of knowledge, and facilitates the transformation of knowledge to capital and promotion. Through dynamic allocation of internal shares and meritorious allocation of positions, the company continually restructures itself to create more opportunities for its staff, so as to motivate employees and promote the creation of knowledge to develop its core competence.
Rory L. ChaseEditor