The Development and Investigation of a Conceptual Model to Understand Knowledge Management
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The realization that knowledge constitutes a key organizational resource and should be managed effectively gave rise to the field of knowledge management (KM). Since then, the field has experienced tremendous growth as measured by the number of research papers, books, conferences, and consulting services. The lack of a theoretical foundation, however, has resulted in the proliferation of KM definitions and models with little underlying coherence among them. This research represents an attempt to address this shortcoming by developing and investigating a theoretically grounded model for KM. The focus of the research is twofold. First, a conceptual model is developed that combines tenets of evolutionary theory, organizational learning and organizational memory (OM) into a single integrated model. The model proposes that organizational knowledge evolves through four recursive stages. At each stage, a process is required to manage the evolving knowledge, namely, knowledge scanning process, knowledge evaluation process, knowledge transfer process, and knowledge application process. The model further proposes that, as it evolves, knowledge is enabled by and embedded in OM infrastructures namely, individuals, roles, business logic, artifacts and culture. Second, the conceptual model is then examined within an organizational setting to gain an understanding of how each of the knowledge processes and OM infrastructures function inter-dependently to contribute to the management of knowledge. Using a case study methodology, an investigation is conducted within the context of new service development in three different lines of business (LOB) (referred to as TM, PD and MM) of a major logistics company. The research shows that the LOBs with enhanced KM capability (i.e., TM and PD) share three dominant aspects: articulable (i.e., their knowledge processes and OM infrastructures are well-defined and well understood at each stage of knowledge evolution); supportive (i.e., their knowledge processes and OM infrastructures at each stage are aligned with the goals of the respective stages); and equifocused (i.e., they are attentive to all the stages of knowledge evolution). In contrast to KM at these two LOBs, KM at MM is lacking in all three key aspects.