An evolutionary and interpretive ...
An evolutionary and interpretive perspective to knowledge management Chalee Vorakulpipat and Yacine Rezgui Abstract Purpose ��� The purpose of the paper is to provide a review of knowledge management (KM) literature by adapting and extending McElroy���s KM generations model. Design/methodology/approach ��� The paper draws from a range of KM research published in the academic and trade literature. An interpretive stance is adopted to provide a holistic understanding and interpretation of organizational KM research and related knowledge management systems (KMS) and models. Findings ��� To be effective organizations need not only to negotiate their migration from a knowledge sharing (first generation) to a knowledge creation (second generation) culture, but also to create sustained organizational and societal values. The latter form the third generation KM and represent key challenges faced by modern organizations. A true value creation culture is nurtured through a blended approach that factors a number of perspectives to KM, including human networks, social capital, intellectual capital, technology assets, and change processes. Research limitations/implications ��� The interpretive approach adopted throughout the review is limited to, and focused on, understanding the implementation and organizational implications of KM initiatives and technology. Originality/value ��� While value creation focuses on the organizational and societal impact of knowledge management, the paper describes how human networks, social capital, intellectual capital, technology assets, and change processes emerge as essential conditions to enable knowledge value creation. Keywords Knowledge management, Knowledge sharing, Knowledge creation, Information systems Paper type Literature review 1. Introduction In recent years, knowledge management (KM) has attracted considerable interest from the academic community. A growing number of organizations have included knowledge management into their strategies and have as a result reported: B business process efficiency improvements B better-organized communities and B higher staff motivation (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Knowledge, including knowing and reasons for knowing, has attracted considerable interest from Western and Eastern philosophers (Wiig, 2000). However, knowledge related research has suffered from a lack of integration with other theories. This was a determinant factor in the gradual emergence of a KM perspective as an established discipline (Wiig, 2000). KM is a broad and expanding topic (Scarbrough et al., 1999). In reviewing the theory and literature of this field (Venters, 2001), it is necessary to commit to an identifiable epistemic flavor of approach. Many such approaches to knowledge management are identified, and have been categorized in various ways (Alavi and Leidner, 2001 Earl, 2001 McAdam and DOI 10.1108/13673270810875831 VOL. 12 NO. 3 2008, pp. 17-34, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1367-3270 j JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT j PAGE 17 Chalee Vorakulpipat and Yacine Rezgui are both at the University of Salford, Salford, UK.
McCreedy, 1999 Schultze, 1998). Schultze (1998) engages Burrell and Morgan���s (1979) framework in order to identify a two-fold typology of knowledge within the debate about knowledge management objectivist and subjectivist. An objectivist approach views knowledge as objects to be discovered (Hedlund, 1994). In identifying the existence of knowledge in various forms and locations, technology is employed in the codification of such knowledge objects (Hansen et al., 1999). In contrast, a subjectivist approach suggests knowledge is inherently identified and linked to human experience and the social practice of knowing, as seen for example in the work of Tenkasi and Boland (1996) and Brown and Duguid (1998). In adopting such a stance, it is contended that knowledge is continuously shaped by the social practice of communities and institutions. Alavi and Leidner (2001) note that knowledge may be viewed from five different perspectives: 1. State of mind perspective emphasizing knowing and understanding through experience and study (Schubert et al., 1998). 2. Object perspective defining knowledge as a thing to be stored and manipulated and a process of simultaneously knowing and action (Carlsson et al., 1996 McQueen, 1998 Zack, 1998). 3. Process perspective focusing on the application of exercise (Zack, 1998). 4. Condition perspective emphasizing a condition of information access (McQueen, 1998). 5. Capability perspective viewing knowledge as a capability with the potential for influencing future action (Carlsson et al., 1996). Similarly, these different views of knowledge lead to different perspectives of KM: B information technology (IT) perspective focusing on the use of various technologies to acquire or store knowledge resources (Borghoff and Pareschi, 1998) B socialization perspective focusing on understanding organizational nature (Becerra-Fernandez and Sabherwal, 2001 Gold et al., 2001) and B information system (IS) perspective focusing on both IT and organizational capability perspectives and emphasizing the use of knowledge management systems (KMS) (Schultze and Leidner, 2002 Tiwana, 2000). This latter perspective forms the focus of the present paper. The paper first presents a taxonomy of KM drawn from an Information Systems (IS) research perspective. This is followed by a review of knowledge management systems (KMS). Then, the paper provides a summary of the three main generations of KM (Koenig, 2002 McElroy, 1999 Snowden, 2002). A gap is then identified in current KM evolution theories. The paper adopts and extends McElroy���s (1999) generations of KM by identifying a third generation: Value Creation. Therefore, the following sections adopt McElroy���s (1999) KM generations model and present a review of knowledge sharing and knowledge creation with a focus on IT and socialization. A review of the proposed ������third generation KM������ (value creation) is then presented. The final section concludes the paper and presents a summary of key findings from the review. 2. Taxonomy of KM in information systems research Schultze and Leidner (2002) provide a taxonomy of published KM research based on a theoretical framework developed by Deetz (1996). This framework is an adaptation of Burrell and Morgan���s (1979) paradigms of social and organizational inquiry. Deetz���s framework relates to the notions of subjectivity and objectivity in organizational science discourses (Figure 1). The framework is structured into four discourses: the normative, the interpretive, the critical and the dialogic. The normative discourse is concerned with codification, normalization and the search for law-like relationships. As a result, the research findings could be both generalizable and cumulative. The interpretive discourse emphasizes the social and PAGE 18 j JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT j VOL. 12 NO. 3 2008
organizational issues. Researchers are assumed to create a coherent, consensual, and unified representation of the organizational reality. The critical discourse aims to expose and challenge the theories. The dialogic discourse bears a number of similarities with the critical discourse, but considers power and domination as situational factors, not owned by individuals. Most KM articles are classified in the normative discourse. These provide systems to facilitate the storing and transferring of knowledge. Some articles are classified in the interpretive discourse and aim at coordinating collective action in systems of distributed knowledge. Very few articles fall within the critical and dialogic discourses, as it is difficult to identify related themes in Deetz���s dissensus discourse (Figure 1). As suggested by Schultze and Leidner (2002): B the normative discourse is suitable for studying technology solutions for KM B the interpretive discourse is more adept at understanding the implementation and organizational implication of KM initiatives and technology B the critical discourse is well suited to highlighting the social inequities underlying organizational distinction and B the dialogic discourse is best suited for the examination of contradictions in KM. The paper adopts an interpretive stance as it aims to provide a holistic understanding and interpretation of organizational KM underpinned by the use of technology. 3. Knowledge management systems Knowledge management systems (KMS) refer to a class of information systems applied to managing organizational knowledge (Alavi and Leidner, 2001). That is, they are IT-based systems developed to support and enhance the organizational processes of knowledge sharing, transfer, retrieval, and creation. Many KM initiatives rely on IT as an important enabler, and tend for some of them to overlook the socio-cultural aspects that underpin knowledge management (Davenport and Prusak, 1998 Malhotra, 1999 O���Dell and Grayson, 1998). The literature discussing applications of IT to organizational knowledge management initiatives reveals three common applications (Alavi and Leidner, 2001): Figure 1 Deetz���s framework of discourses in organizational science VOL. 12 NO. 3 2008 j JOURNAL OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT j PAGE 19